Tag Archives: mobile photography

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.




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 


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.


The Jungle

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

Just a quick post. This is a new photomontage I created today. It is my homage to the dangers of life in the big city. I shot all the elements on my iPhone and edited it on my iPad using a variety of apps including Juxtaposer, PicFX, Pic Grunger, Stackables, and Procreate.


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

 


Favorite Mobile Photo Apps – Steller

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There is a wonderful visual storytelling app for both Android and iOS mobile phones called Steller. I happened across it while doing research for a course I am writing for the Academy of Art University and recently downloaded the free app to give it a test drive. Steller allows you to create beautiful visual stories with photos, video, and text and the process is straight forward and absolutely seamless.

The design is fairly minimalist and very elegant in appearance. There are currently eleven templates to choose from for designing your stories. Each one has a different look and offer several choices when it comes to the layout of your individual pages.

  

The first step is to choose a template or theme for your story.

    
You will be prompted to choose 20 videos or photographs to import into your story. You can always rearrange and edit design layout or swap out photos and videos before publishing.

 
You will choose a title and subtitle if you have one and can change the layout of your title page as well as the image that appears here.

  
You can add additional pages as video, photo or text. The recommended length of a story is around 20 pages, however you can certainly make it longer if you feel the need.

  
You can add text below images by choosing different layouts for each page.

  

Or have multiple pages of straight text if you are feeling a bit more like Mark Twain.

   
Steller is also a wonderful community filled with talented individuals and you can create collections of the stories you like and name your collections anything you desire. You can also share and comment on other Steller user’s stories and follow them, similar to Instagram.

Once you hit publish, you can share your story within the app to your plethora of social media accounts and watch the magic happen. If you are lucky and the Steller gods are smiling down upon you, your story might be handpicked by Steller’s editors to be featured in one of their collections. When this happens your exposure increases exponentially and you might even find your story going viral.

Below are a few of my own Steller stories. You will find links to view them underneath each image and if you already have the Steller app, you can find and follow me here: http://steller.co/TracyJThomas

  

My most recent Steller story on the Kootenai Pow Wow in Bonners Ferry, Idaho made it into the top 10 most viewed stories this afternoon with over 6,140 views and was featured in both the Stellerverse and the Most Viewed collections. You can view the story here: https://steller.co/s/5EeDxX32fH6 

  

This Steller story highlights some of my quirky mobile photomontage pieces. It was featured in Steller’s Creative Collection and received over 5,000 views. You can view this story here: https://steller.co/s/5EK56vcWwGH

  

This is a story I created on the California drought that illustrates the dire situation at Folsom Lake, the reservoir that provides drinkng water for nearly half a million residents across the Sacramento region. This story also received over 5,000 views. You can view this story here: https://steller.co/s/5DuPxgdv3Xz

Overall, I am truly impressed with the quality and ease of use of the Steller app. The only thing I don’t like is the fact you can’t embed the stories directly into WordPress blog posts. The app provides the embed code for each story, but so far the code gets stripped every time I try it and pasting a straight link into the blog does not bring the story in either. My hope is the app’s developers will soon decide to work with the WordPress embed guidelines so Steller stories will be easier to share in all their glory.

Now go out and get your free copy and start creating your own Steller stories! http://steller.co


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!


Favorite Mobile Photo Apps – Camera+ for Macro Shots

I love macro photography. It forces me to slow down and find the astounding beauty in the small things. Details and activity that aren’t always apparent to the naked eye become revealed when shooting macro. 

In the past, the majority of my macro photographs have been taken with my DSLR and a special 90mm macro lens. This setup requires patience and a good tripod to capture the images I desire since the camera and lens combination are heavy and a bit bulky. 

On my most recent sojourn into the woods, I decided to forego my DSLR and shoot exclusively with my iPhone6. I had planned to focus on landscapes, wildlife, and documentary work at a Pow Wow I would attend. This was a partial experiment in minimizing as well as a true test of the capabilities of my iPhone.

While wandering the property one day and shooting landscapes I noticed a beautiful Dragonfly sitting on a leaf. I wished at that moment that I had my DSLR macro setup with me. I played with one of my go-to camera apps and zoomed in on the insect but the quality of a straight zoom wasn’t as sharp nor as close as I desired for the beautiful detail of the Dragonfly. Then I remembered a recent post someone made on Facebook about the Camera+ app and its macro option. I opened the app, chose the macro option and was immediately amazed at how close I was able to zoom in on the bug and the sharpness of detail it provided. Additionally, there was great DOF and even some Bokeh or lens flare effect in certain lighting conditions.

The downfall of using an app for macro with the iPhone and no lens attachment is the lack of extreme sharpness. The fact you are using digital zoom causes the focus to fall off a bit and throws in some pixelation. Printing out macro photos in large scale with this technique would not provide you with the best quality. However, smaller prints and posting digital images can offer some very compelling imagery.

Below are a few screenshots of the app and its macro mode followed by a series of images I shot at the cabin.

**This screenshot is of an Iris through the Normal mode of Camera+. Even in this straight shot there is some nice depth of field and Bokeh in the background.**

  
**When you click on the “+” symbol to the right of the shutter buttonthe menu including the mode buttons appear.**

  
**When you click on the Macro button, the app zooms in on your subject. Note the “Stabilizer” button. I played around with this feature but do not recommend using it in Macro mode especially if you are trying to capture something that may move out of your frame quickly like an insect. When you have the Stabilizer on it won’t allow you to take a shot until the camera is very still (the shutter button turns red when not stable, yellow when you are getting closer, and green when stable and you can take the shot). This would be a great feature when you have your iPhone secured to a tripod and are shooting something that won’t fly away from you like a flower, but I found it frustrating to use when stabilizing by hand and attempting to get off a quick shot before my subject buzzed away into the sunset.

  
**Once you take your first shot in Macro mode, a zoom slider appears to your right which will allow you to get even closer to your subject. The photo below is of the Iris in Macro mode with 3x magnification. What appeared with my naked eye to be a discolored spot on the drying flower petal turned out to be revealed as an interesting little striped bug when I shot in Macro mode. (These screenshots are not the sharpest of images because it is pretty difficult to hold the phone steady when trying to simultaneously click the power button and the shutter to capture the image on screen, but you get the idea, right?)

  
Below are several of the macro shots I captured with this app while at the little cabin in the woods.

  A bee collects pollen on a wildflower. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved. 

 Tiny Spiky Galls created by Wasps surround the stem of a Wild Rose. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved.

 A Dragonfly suns itself on a Thimbleberry leaf. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved.

Overall I believe the Camera+ Macro feature is a great one especially for the photographer who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money and time on expensive cameras and macro lense setups. The downside is the falloff you receive when using digital zoom as opposed to shooting with a sharp add on lens with optical zoom. Rumors have it that the next iteration of the iPhone (iPhone 6S) will have a dual lens array which means it will have optical zoom built-in. Now that will be a killer combination with any macro app.

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


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. **


Lost in the Woods

  

I just spent ten glorious days “lost” in the woods of North Idaho. This was my first vacation in over two years since dealing with West Nile Virus and then treatment for skin cancer. It felt so good to get far away from the house that had become my hermit’s cave and sanctuary during my illness and treatment. The beauty that surrounded me in Idaho seemed magnified tenfold and I couldn’t stop exclaiming “It’s so pretty here!” As those who have read my book “Zen in the Garden” know, I have always found peace and healing through nature. Following my recent struggles, that desire to reconnect with the earth for a bit of healing has been foremost on my mind.

  

It was so nice to sit in a quiet place void of the noise pollution of an urban environment for hours at a time. The sound of birdsong and of the wind as it rustled through the pines created the perfect symphony for my tired soul. Each day I could feel my body relax even more than the day before as the stressors of everyday life became nothing more than a fading shadow inside my reawakened mind. I felt present. Mindful. Embraced by what truly matters in this life. I felt alive and happy as I touched the earth and opened my eyes to its simple yet elegant gifts.

  

As we wandered the woods that surrounded our little log cabin I knew without a doubt that this was where I belonged. It all seemed so familiar to me. It was as if a piece of myself had spent my entire life wandering under that beautiful, peaceful canopy while the other parts had struggled to exist in the chaos of a world quite foreign to my soul. My childhood was spent in an environment similar to this place but I chose to leave it at the age of 18 to pursue a college degree and make my way out in the “real” world. That world has proven to be both rewarding and cruel. I have often felt myself struggle to fit in when my heart keeps telling me to run back into the woods where I belong.

  

This trip into the woods healed me in more ways than I can explain with words. It brought me peace and it brought me hope. It provided me with a renewed sense of motivation. The wheels are now in motion to make my way back into the woods for good where I can embrace nature for the remainder of my life. No matter how long it takes to reach that goal, I now know it is going to happen. I can’t wait…

  

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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.**


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. **


Zen Moment 3 – Connecting With the Gifts That Nature Gives Us

  

** Raccoon wading through the wetlands, Yolo Wildlife Area, Davis, CA. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2015. All rights reserved. **

“When you touch one thing with deep awareness, you touch everything.” – Lao Tzu

I am constantly surprised by nature’s little gifts. A few days ago I went on a walk at the Yolo Wildlife Area and chose to head up the gravel road I have walked dozens of times. There are wetlands that hug each side of this road and it provides a great view of a wide variety of waterfowl and shorebirds.

It was a typical Spring morning where I spotted and photographed Egrets, Blue Heron, American Coot, Mallards, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shovelers, Ibis, Stilts, and Avocets. I walked and stopped every now and then to capture another photo and marveled at the chorus of birdsong and the beauty of this oasis so close to the city where I live. I felt grounded and thankful that I was able to begin my day in such a wonderful way. 

While lost in the moment, I caught a sudden movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned towards a tall Thistle plant on the edge of the water and was amazed to see a Raccoon slip into the water and begin to wade towards a small island of reeds. In all my trips out there I have never come across a Raccoon, especially not in daylight since they are nocturnal creatures by nature. 

I stood there amazed at the scene as it unfolded before me. The Raccoon was equally amazed to see me standing there and for a moment we held a silent vigil as our eyes locked on to the other. I raised my camera slowly and took a few photographs and video of this amazing creature and tried to reassure it through my relaxed demeanor that I meant it no harm.

My original intent that morning was to get some exercise in with a nice brisk walk, alas, the Universe had a different plan for me. This unexpected gift found me standing there for a good hour just watching and waiting as the Raccoon waded from island to island and searched the reeds for Crawdads to eat. Every time it would finish its search it would peek out at me from between the reeds then enter the water and make its way towards the next island.

The entire time I stood there watching I felt a smile spread wide across my face. There was nothing else but me, the Raccoon, a Hallelujah chorus of birdsong, and my giant smile. Any stress I felt at the start of that morning was dissipated. It was exactly how nature intended it to be. The two of us, lost in the moment of our surprising communion as we danced our pas de deux to the music of this magical Universe.

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


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.


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.


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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Of Fluttering Eyelids, Insomnia, and a Dose of Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Of Frozen Peas and Prize Fights

Frozen peas are my friend.

Frozen peas are my friend.

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

The scene of my Mohs surgery.

The scene of my Mohs surgery.

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

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

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


On the Eve of Mohs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And So It Begins…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My lollipop following surgery.

My lollipop following surgery.

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

Paraphernalia to make the owie all better.

Paraphernalia to make the owie all better.

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

That is all for now…


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.


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.


At Times Like This…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 


Interview on iArt Chronicles

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


New Era Museum Founder Artist

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

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

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

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

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Photowalk: Jenkinson Lake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**Back to iPinion Syndicate**


My Favorite Superhero

My son Justin was born with FG Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder linked to the X chromosome that affects him physically, emotionally, neurologically and intellectually. His syndrome has in no way stopped him from blooming into a remarkable and independent young man with a heart of gold, a wonderful sense of humor, and a deep sense of compassion for both humans and animals. He is the defender of the underdog. He is my role-model for unconditional love. He is my favorite Superhero…

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

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

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

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

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

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

[**All photos shot and edited on my iPhone4**)


Excitement Builds for the LA Mobile Arts Festival

In a mere three days, the epic LA Mobile Arts Festival will kick off at the Santa Monica Arts Center in Santa Monica, CA. This is considered to be the largest brick and mortar exhibition of iPhone art ever created. There are over 600 works from some 200 artists who created that art in 30 different countries.

This show has been receiving an amazing amount of press: The Huffington Post, LA Times, CNET, LA Magazine, Good Day LA, KTLA’s Gayle Anderson and ABC News, MSNBC, Dig Magazine, Glo.com, ManJr. Digital media, Wire and MindshareLA, and WIRED Magazine have already done or are doing pieces on this show.

The founders of the festival, Daria Polichetti and Nathaniel Park, are also the founders of the popular online website iPhoneart.com. When I stumbled on their site back in January after I purchased my first iPhone, I was flabbergasted by the quality of artwork that was being created via this little rectangular piece of metal, glass and plastic.

How in the world was this possible? All on an iPhone???

Forever curious and up for any challenge, I began to purchase and experiment with a plethora of apps. Little did I know that my experimentation with the hopes of replicating something remotely similar to the fantastic art I was viewing, would ultimately rock my world.

I have been honored, amazed, absolutely blown away by the accolades and the opportunity to exhibit in galleries across the U.S. as well as outside the country during my short 8-month sojourn into the world of iPhoneography.

And now six of my pieces have landed in one of the biggest physical shows to date. I cannot even begin to describe my excitement for this event.

The LAMAF team unpacks and prepares to hang the show:

In so many ways I still feel like the quintessential virgin. I gaze longingly at some of the pieces that grace the websites created by fellow artists who have been around for several years now. I can only hope that my own art will take on that same quality of skill and depth as I move forward and continue to manipulate the pixels in hand.

And you had better believe that the iPhone5 and the iPad are both on my radar for the purchase in the coming year. I love my iPhone4, yet I can’t help but imagine the amazing possibilities this ever-changing technology will grant me in the near future.

Now it’s off to pack for a few days at the beach! And of course there will be lots of photos and video for those who can’t make this stellar event.


Showing Up for the Gig

“Eros” – Featured on The App Whisperer’s Flickr Top 10 – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

One of my favorite former instructors gave me the best piece of advice I have ever received. It was during a time when I was feeling a bit lost and frustrated about launching my career as a photographer.

She said, “Just keep showing up for the gig every single day.”

These words may seem simple and not too profound to most, but there was something about that little sentence that resonated with me.

I began to make it a point to “show up for the gig” every day of the week. I would create a piece of art, take a couple of photos, enter a contest, send out my resume, write, submit my work to websites, send my portfolio to galleries; anything I thought would bring exposure to my work in the “real” world.

And you know what began to happen? I saw my work featured on a number of key websites, I was accepted into several gallery shows, I was asked to write a piece for an anthology that is being published by Seal Press, I was asked to teach a workshop on social media at the San Miguel Writer’s Conference in Mexico and most recently I signed a contract to rewrite the “Business Practices and Principles for Photographers” course at my alma mater – the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

And it just keeps on coming…

My solo show, “iPhoneography: An Obsession” opened at Gallery 1075 in West Sacramento on Thursday.

And the “Summer Photo Show” opened last night at The Lunch Box Gallery in Miami where four of my iPhone photographs are showing.

I have also been sitting on exciting news for the past few weeks but I wanted to wait until the final list came out before I wrote about it.

Several weeks ago five of my pieces were shortlisted for the cutting-edge LA Mobile Arts Festival to be held at the Santa Monica Arts Center in Santa Monica, CA. I received word at the beginning of last week that not only did the five pieces make the final cut but they decided to add a sixth to the show.

The works of around 225 artists, with over 500 pieces, are being shown at the LAMAF. The show opens Saturday August 18th with an artists reception that begins at 7pm.

The LAMAF is a first of its kind mobile photography and art show. Here are just a few examples of what can be seen at this show:

• Light Impressions, an installation of 40 iPads, rigged to a re-purposed metal roof-top that was found on the beach after Hurricane Opal in the Florida Panhandle. The old/new world electronic installation includes the work of 40 iPhoneographers from 10 countries and 52 cities around the world, and will arrive at LA MAF as part of an international tour including a stop at a recent TEDx event.

• A series of Digital Daguerreotypes combining the old-world aesthetic of many contemporary mobile artists with cutting-edge print tech- nologies. These images on high-tech mirrors will recall the old daguerreotype and collotype origins of traditional photography.

• An Olde Curiosity Shoppe of mobile art, film-based and environmental installations, a showcase dedicated to those using mobile technology specifically for drawing and painting rather than photography, an exploration of today’s world of mobile apps, and a visual history placing mobile art in the evolution of photography.

The LAMAF is not to be missed!

My work was also included this week in a piece for the Huffington Post on the LA Mobile Arts Festival [“Illuminati” appears in the slideshow].



This week my work also ended up on Lenscratch with a write-up on the “Summer Photo Show” which is being held at The Lunch Box Gallery. Lenscratch is considered to be “one of the top 10 Photography-Related blogs you should be reading by Source Review, Wired.com, and InStyle Magazine.”

So whatever you are doing, whatever your goals or wishes are in life, just keep putting yourself out there and showing up for the gig.

It’s not magic nor is it some miracle formula that will bring you everything your heart desires. It is simply reward for keeping your nose to the grindstone and doing it with focused intent.


Summer Photo Show

I am so very pleased to have four of my iPhone pieces chosen to be in the “Summer Photo Show” at The Lunch Box Gallery in Miami, Florida. The work of only fourteen artists was chosen to be in this show that begins August 11th and runs through October 6th. The show is a mixture of photographic styles including mixed-media, documentary and iPhoneography.

The four pieces chosen for this show are shown below.

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

“Hitching a Ride on a Minnow to the Moon” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“I See You” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Building a New Man” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

Here is an excerpt from the official press release:

“The Lunch Box Gallery is pleased to announce for the second year its group exhibition “Summer Photo Show 2012”, featuring the photography work of fourteen artists. The showcased pieces are a result of a call for entries oriented to national and international visual artists working in all styles of photography including any mixed-media art that utilized photography as one of its forms of expression. All photographic methods, formats, types and schools were welcomed.

In this show, The Lunch Box Gallery is exhibiting works of insightful conceptual ideals materialized through exceptional craftsmanship, which are intended to represent fascinating takes and points of view in photography nowadays. The thought behind the image of the artist is very important in this show, yet as important as the final visible result. The range of photography tendencies to be found in the show is vast: from conceptual and documentary photography, to narrative photography, photo-essay, iPhoneography and photo-collage; touching on topics like obsessive-compulsive tendencies, the demystification of the “happily ever after”, performative images that play with childhood materials to reflect on how they determine us, or the mistreated young Muay Thai boxers from a Bangkok slum. They all convey on representing an individual concept and a very particular way of externalizing it.

Photographers participating in the show include:

Sarah Tortora (Connecticut), John William Keedy (New York), Noah David Bau (Boston/Bangkok), Amy Leibrand (Ohio), Miranda Maynard (North Carolina), Lissette Schaeffler (Miami), Aimee Hertog (New Jersey), Dafna Steinberg (Washington DC), Ted Oonk (The Netherlands), Luisa Mesa (Miami), Troy Colby (Kansas), Ramesh Pithiya (Washington DC), Naimar Ramirez (Puerto Rico) and Tracy Thomas (California).

The “Summer Photo Show 2012” will be opened to the public on Saturday, August 11th from 5:00 – 10pm, at 310 NW 24th. St. Miami, FL 33127 (Wynwood Art District) / Regular business hours Tuesday – Saturday 11:30-5pm or by appointment.”

So once again I am humbled and blown away by the wonderful reception my iPhoneography is receiving out in the “real” world. It is such a joyous means of expression for me and I absolutely love that others are finding pleasure in my work.


Tidbits of This and That

Just some general news and video shares today. My iPhoneography solo show is set to run August 8th through September 5th at Gallery 1075, 1075 West Capitol Ave., West Sacramento, CA. There will be an artist’s reception on Thursday, August 9th from 5-7pm and all are invited if you are anywhere near the Sacramento region! I think it will be a fun introduction to iPhoneography for our local community.

I am very honored to be included in the following video along with some of the biggest names in iPhoneography. The video was created by Knox Bronson who is the curator for the site Pixels: The Art of the iPhone.

In 2010, I was the first of two recipients of the View of Farmlands Art & Ag Project public art grant in Yolo County. With the grant I was able to visit a number of local farms and create a photographic series that is currently on tour throughout the county. National Endowment of the Arts Chairman, Rocco Landesman, has stated the Art & Ag Project should serve as a model for the rest of the country. I had the pleasure of performing a video interview with Mr. Landesman when he paid a visit to YoloArts to learn more about the program.

The following video highlights the Art & Ag Project and you can view one of the pieces in my series at about 7:21. I am proud to have played a part in the beginning of this wonderful program that benefits both artists and farmers.


The Scourge of the Damned

Last week in my post “Carnival of the Bizarre” I spoke about moving back towards the creation of whimsical oddities that pop into my curiously creative mind. Since that post I have found myself delving into a series that I am currently calling “The Scourge.”

I am extremely fed up with the ridiculous circus-like grandstanding of both religious groups and politicos in this country. All the finger-pointing, name calling, damning to Hell, attempts to control, “my morals are better than your morals” bullshit.

Just sick and tired of it all.

They are doing nothing more than painting a very ugly and embarrassing picture of the United States for the rest of the world’s entertainment.

So I have decided to take a little side journey into my psyche and create images based on my reactions to this building display of idiocy and will leave you to ponder your own interpretations.

Here is a taste of this ever-building series:

The Exterminator

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

The Undertaker

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

The Negotiator

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved. “The Negotiator” – Apps used: 645 pro, juxtaposer, perfectlyclr, camera+, pixlromatic, scratchcam

The Judge

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

Who knows how this series will evolve… I will definitely post more soon.


Mobile Art Fanaticism

I fell into the world of mobile photography from a space of unbridled curiosity. I am a professional photographer by trade and have been shooting my work with DSLR cameras for many years now. All the sudden buzz around the abilities of the iPhone caused me to wonder.

In January of this year I decided it was time to dump my Motorola and upgrade to an iPhone. This was one of the best decisions I have made in a long time. I began to use the native iPhone camera app to take street photos and instantly loved the freedom it provided. I could whip out this little piece of metal and glass in a heartbeat, aim and shoot. Soon I found myself capturing moments I would surely have missed by the time I set everything I needed to set on my DSLR.

One thing led to another and I soon found myself mesmerized by the multitude of apps and the boundless editing possibilities they provided. Some for free, others for a mere buck or two.

I have not in any way traded my professional DSLR nor my aspirations to continue my documentary work for my quirky creations on the iPhone. I simply feel I have found another grand tool to add to my arsenal and am finding great pleasure in the discoveries.

There have been several wonderful websites and communities that have encouraged my sudden blooming of mobile art fanaticism. Here are a few of my recent humble accolades and a number of sites I feel are well worth a follow:

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved. “Blue” – Apps used: vintage cam, filter mania, picture show, snapseed

“Blue” was recently chosen by the Rebekah Jacob Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina to appear in the “Ways of Seeing: Phoneography” exhibit opening July 12th. This will be the fourth showing of my iPhoneography in a traditional gallery setting since I began my obsession in January, however this was quite an honor due to the gallery’s great reputation and the fact I have ancestral ties to this beautiful city. So if you are in or near the Charleston area, hop on by the gallery in July and take a gander at some wonderful work by a variety of amazing mobile artists. You can receive updates on exhibits by following @rebekahjacob on Twitter.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved. “Deep Inside the Time Machine” – Apps used: vintage cam, juxtaposer, camera+, pictureshow

“Deep Inside the Time Machine” was recently chosen by the Mobile Photography Awards for their Weekly Showcase (May 20th to June 6th). The Mobile Photography Awards is at the forefront of promoting mobile photography and helping it move to the next level in the art world. Their 2011 award winners have been on display at the Arthaus in San Francisco (the exhibit runs through the end of June) and were recently featured at the San Francisco Fine Art Fair. Both shows brought a ton of positive press and feedback. Several pieces have sold from this show and brought in over a thousand dollars each which speaks volumes to the acceptance of the medium by art collectors. Give a follow to @MobiPhotoAwards on Twitter.

Here is a news spot on the Arthaus show:

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved. “The Tenant” – Apps used: 645 pro, perfectlyclr, juxtaposer, pictureshow, scratchcam, modern grunge

“The Tenant” was recently chosen for The App Whisperer’s Jubilee Showcase. I adore the App Whisperer site. It is filled with invaluable information, interviews and tutorials by some outstanding mobile artists.

The individual behind The App Whisperer is founder Joanne Carter, no stranger to photography herself: “Joanne Carter is the Founder and Editorial Director of TheAppWhisperer.com. A Professional Photographer and Associate of the British Industry of Professional Photographers, BIPP, as well as a Professional Journalist, specializing in Technology. A contributor to National and International publications, including DPreview.com, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Professional Photographer, NikonPro, Graphix, Digital Arts, Readers Digest, Popular Photography & Imaging and Which? consumer magazine and ePhotozine.com.”

If you are not already following @TheAppWhisperer on Twitter then you are missing out on the party. There are currently over 17,000 followers.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved. “When Houses go to Heaven” – Apps used: vintage cam, juxtaposer, filter mania, scratchcam

“When Houses Go To Heaven” was recently chosen as a favorite by the developers of the App “Scratchcam” as one of their Five faves on Flickr. This is one of my favorite go to apps for editing and I know it is also a favorite app of a plethora of other iPhone artists. This app consistently receives 5 stars and is an inexpensive $1.99 to download from the iTunes App store.

Give a follow to @ScratchCam and keep apprised on updates, contests and featured photos.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved. “The Day the Circus Came to Town” – Apps used: vintage cam, juxtaposer, camera+, scratchcam

“The Day the Circus Came to Town” was recently chosen for Pixels: The Art of the iPhone. Pixels is one of my favorite sites to view fantastic art by some extraordinary iPhone artists. The online gallery is curated by Knox Bronson, who reviews one piece at a time and hand picks the pieces that will be shown.

I have been fortunate enough to have around twenty of my own quirkier pieces chosen for Pixels and was even honored with a “Pic of the Day” for “On Pointe.” (view here)

Make sure you follow Pixels on Flickr @P1xelation to be blown away by some beautiful art.

My favorite community of iPhone artists resides on the site iPhoneArt.com. Since I joined the site in January I have met the most outstanding community of artistic individuals who go out of their way to support, applaud and share their knowledge with each other.

I was blown away to receive Artist of the Day on two occasions already and am consistently honored by the feedback I have received by fellow artists on this site. I look forward to my daily visits there to peruse the incredible iPhone art and to applaud and encourage others in the community.

iPhoneArt.com and the Santa Monica Art Studios have recently joined forces to present The LA Mobile Arts Festival 2012. This is destined to be an exciting, cutting edge event that will certainly give awe to the masses. There is currently an open call for entries through July 15th at LA-MAF.com. You can also find out more by following @MobileArtFest and @iphoneartdotcom via Twitter.