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Pyramids: Uxmal, Chichen Itzá, Teotihuacán, Giza

Click to listen to podcast of post.

All my travels are planned with the intention of conducting myself as a cultural photo-journalist of sorts. However, without fail, I return home, transfer my travel photos to my hard drive and essentially forget about all the good intentions I had for my images and travel notes.

This week, I’ve been focused on creating an attractive online portfolio to better promote and share my work. While reviewing example portfolios, I came across a lovely minimalist style with simple headings: People and Objects. I have a lot of work to do before I can trim down to that level of simplicity, but I can work with the spirit of the concept and have begun organizing my work under People, Places, Things, Ideas, Change and Books.

Pyramids at Giza

While sorting through years of images to select portfolio samples to represent my work, pyramid shots from my 2019/2020 trip to Egypt stood out. Giza was the third pyramid site I’ve been to, which led to a search for pictures from prior visits to other pyramid sites.

Pyramids at Chichen Itzá and Uxmal

My first flight and international trip was to the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico for my high school senior trip. We spent a morning at the ancient Maya city-state Chichen Itzá site and honestly, that was the day I fell in love with Mexico. Fourteen years later, I visited a friend in Mexico City and we took a day trip to Teotihuacán, an ancient Aztec city.

“The Maya originated around 3,000 years ago in present-day Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and Mexico.”

Chichenitza.com

Correction: My photo albums are in storage but I took pictures of my high school scrap book on my phone. Another Maya site, Uxmal, was also visited. The below images were taken on 35mm film, possibly on a been a Fuji in 1993.

“[Uxmal] is the largest, most elegant, and most important ruin site in the Puuc area. The Pyramid of the Magician is a truly magnificent structure….The majority of the structures seen today date from 600-900 A.D..”

The Mayan Ruins Website

Pyramids at Teotihuacán

By the time I got to Mexico City in 2007, I had been living in New York City for two years and I didn’t think there was another city that could blow my socks off. I’ve been happily mistaken several times on that score. Americans talk about being the best and biggest at everything and I never realize how indoctrinated I am with such rhetoric until I explore other environments. Mexico City secured Mexico as one of my favorite countries. The architecture, colors, style, sounds, history is so present and available every where you look – and it’s a short flight from anywhere in the United State! During my visit I got to see an excavation site in the center of town where the ancient city Mexico City was built on was discovered. Amazing!

“Teotihuacan was founded as early as 400 B.C., though the largest structures of the city weren’t completed until about 300 A.D.”

History.com

The below images were taken with my Olympus digital camera that held a whopping 1mb memory card at the time (2007). I had never edited any images from this trip until now, they were all hazy, flat, and mostly uninteresting. I certainly didn’t capture the awe of the place. I didn’t do much editing, but removing most of the haze was enough to make them look good. Lightroom does wonders! I stitched some together in Microsoft ICE, adjusted color and sharpness on all and did some final touch-ups in Photoshop. Fourteen years after they were taken with a digital point and shoot. I’m so glad I don’t delete images! 🙂

#phototographer #photography #travelphotography #pyramids #ancientcities #citystates #giza #teotihuacan #chichenitza #uxmal #mexico #egypt #culture #photoediting #archives #revisiting #oldwork #portfolio

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Gear Up & Upskill

I take a lot of pictures. Especially since I got a digital camera. Even more so since I started buying 125GB memory cards. And I save everything. I just did a quick scan of my image catalog and I have at least 152,000 images on my mobile drive. That doesn’t include anything on my desktop, laptop, phone or tablet – possibly another 10,000 combined on those.

Before 2009, all my photography was on film. I was all about snapshots. Being artsy wasn’t a priority. I wanted to capture moments. Around that year, I purchase my first digital camera, perhaps an Olympus with zoom. It could hold a couple hundred images on the memory at a time. Much more capacity than film, but not enough when you want to photograph everything.

In 2011, I invested in my first DSL, a Sony A33. I knew I wanted to eventually become a paid professional photographer so I had to get serious about my gear and skills. Practicing with different lenses, prime and zoom, in different settings for varying purposes allowed me to get extremely comfortable with being in the background and observing life from a pensive compositional view point.

Over the years, I’ve photographed vacations, visits, weddings, births, funerals, corporate, community and social events and nearly all of my travel. Nature has been my true love, however, trying to capture light in an image, the way it moves over a scene, changing the mood and color, is fascinating. The moon in all its stages is mesmerizing. Great shots of the sun are illusive. As are images that do the stars any justice. Then there are trees that I stalked through their seasonal cycles. Every spring in New York City, saw me searching out budding tulips as well. And over the last couple of years, I’ve been improving my skills with self-portraiture.

In 2018, I felt I was ready for an upgrade and ready to start hiring myself out for photography work. I purchased my Sony A7iii and beefed up my gear kit significantly. I had already been the unofficial official photographer for my group’s legal conferences and other events at work for about seven years. And by that time, I had been photographing demonstrations for social justice (against police brutality and state-sanctioned murder) for nearly four years. I had quite a portfolio, all I needed to do was cull and focus the work.

Focusing on my strong suits, however, is difficult when I enjoy doing everything, and perhaps my best work isn’t necessarily the most financially lucrative. See social justice photography. Or satisfying. I’ve had friends tell me that some of the images I took of their weddings and receptions were better than the photos they paid a premium for. But who wants to be a full-time wedding photographer? I don’t mind the occasional wedding, but that’s a lot on a regular basis.

Over the last year, I’ve been hyper-focused on upskilling. At the beginning of the second week of January 2019, I had just returned home from two weeks in Egypt and Ethiopia. Perhaps about 3200 photos were taken on that trip. While I was there, I knew I was documenting for collections and art, meaning, I wanted to create artwork from the images and do some travel writing as well. One of my investments that year had been a Sony 12-24mm wide lens, an upgrade from my Rokinon 12-16mm. It was purchased for my real estate photography, but I love it for travel, nature and portraiture.

In the summer of 2018, I began working on a photography project called I AM WOMAN. I had a vision for the images as I took them, but I didn’t have the skill to create the end result. That didn’t stop me. Somehow I knew I would learn what I needed to know in order to accomplish my vision. That’s the primary reason I don’t delete my photos. As I review the images I took in 2018 of nearly seventy women, I’ve realized that what stood out to me at the point of the shoot, and even during the initial reviews, are not necessarily the same things standing out to me as I edit for my photobook. As I’ve learned to use Lightroom, Photoshop, Microsoft ICE and Topaz Labs effectively to enhance my photography I’ve learned that even dull and dreary images can be fantastic elements for a composited image. That knowledge has kept me from mass purging.

For example, one of my gleeful moments in editing I AM WOMAN, is the final composition of Lyn’s image. One thing I’ve been adamant about for this project was that the women come as they are. I wasn’t interested in glamor shots or over-stylized images. That being said, looking through the images while trying to build a cohesive collection for a book, many were uninspiring. So I looked for ways I could enhance the image without altering the appearance of the woman. During one of those exercises last month, Lyn’s final happened.

Lyn in Columbus Circle, NYC. A Sphinx in the MET Museum, NYC.

Lyn was photographed in Columbus Circle in the center of Manhattan. Neither of us were interested in representing Columbus at all. Even less so in a work about Black Women in America. I had already had several shoots in Central Park and the one before Lyn was in front of the Time Warner building shops. A great thing about NYC is the great many backgrounds you can get within the span of a block. We tried to focus on the JOY and GLORY on the pedestal of the monument. Though this is one of my favorite images for its simplicity, it didn’t seem to speak to others.

More than two years after the image was taken my skills caught up to my vision. Lyn’s word is Resilient. Stone is a good representation of resiliency, but how much better is a Sphinx than a monument Columbus? The Sphinx image was taken during my last visit to The Met Museum in 2019. I had the idea of merging, compositing and juxtaposing images, but I couldn’t figure out how to put images together to make them look like one.

Well, technology also caught up to my vision. My first photo project was a calendar in 2004. I hired a photographer and photo-editor. For my second calendar a couple of years later, I tried my hand at editing some images in Photoshop. I was hopeless. The task seemed impossible as a lot of the work required a steady hand to remove objects and trim around pixelated edges. Now with a click or two and some close touch-ups elements are easily isolated. Just like that, I can go beyond my initial vision without alternating the presentation of the Woman or subject.

My process of compositing the two images.

It also helped when I realized I don’t have to follow any rules, only my imagination. Therefore, I can create whatever flows from my thoughts and present it in whatever way pleases me.

Lyn’s final image for I AM WOMAN: Expressions of Black Womanhood photobook.

I have never sought to be perfect in anything. I only seek to be present and do what I can with what I have. What I’ve learned is what I have increases over time, as does my effective use of my skills and resources.

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I AM Woman Cover Work

This project has been my heart focus for a couple of years now. When it first came to mind, I had no idea how I was going to achieve a cohesive product because my thoughts for it were/are all over the place.

Despite very sound advice to focus on one theme, idea, pattern and font to carry throughout the project, I don’t think, create or interact like that. I’ve photographed over fifty women in six states at different stages of their lives from completely different backgrounds. The one thing they were all asked was: What word would you use to describe your womanhood? (My theme.) From that we went about trying to portray each woman and her word in an image. (Completely different styles all around.) Aside from the question and their interest, very few had much in common. So as I edit these images, my primary goal is to make each one stand on its own and hopefully, as individuals they can be a collective together. That’s an overall hope for my life as well.

Below are some steps I’ve taken to get to the cover for I AM Woman: Expressions of Black Womanhood.

Now accepting pre-orders for a limited number of copies. Place your order at Harvest-Life.org/shop.

Original image and near final cover for I AM Woman: Expressions of Black Womanhood. All photography and edits by LaShawnda Jones.
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Milwaukee Art Museum Image Edits

In 2018, I hosted a number of mini photo shoots for women interested in free photos and possibly being part of my final project titled, I AM Woman. The portrait sessions took place in New York City, Chicago, Gary, Milwaukee and Phoenix. The various backdrops include skyscrapers, water, desert, green parks, and museums.

Though I wanted interesting backgrounds, the backdrops were not a focus or priority. The locations were chosen for convenience and diversity. New York sort of lead the charge here as I held about six sessions around town. One was a practice shoot with a former co-worker in Central Park North. My second practice shoot took place at a women’s conference in Harlem. The third shoot was someone else’s photo project that I asked to join in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Permission was granted to tag alongside her photographer for my own shots and I offered to share my work with her for her project. After this, I scheduled my own sessions and accepted whoever showed up. Battery Park, Central Park, Columbus Circle – the City is certainly a huge part of I AM Woman.

Meeting in open, well-populated landmark locations seemed to work well. All the women were, for the most part, comfortable and almost immediately at ease.

In Milwaukee, the meet happened at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The landmark architecture of the Burke Brise Soleil, designed by Santiago Calvatrava, had to be the backdrop for this Great City on a Great Lake.

At the end of the shoots, I didn’t think I had done such a good job capturing the building. It was blurry and cut off in a lot shots. In others, the angles were unattractive. Again, since the building wasn’t my priority, I went about selecting the images of the women that best represented how they saw themselves.

Luckily, I don’t really delete my digital images. Years ago, I decided to keep everything I shoot with the belief that what I don’t like today will be amazing to me tomorrow. Because of this, editing the images for I AM Woman is exposing a great deal of possibilities by blending images I would normally do nothing with into images that need a bit of umph! I stitched four such photos together that didn’t work by themselves to get a great final image that will be the background of one of my portraits from that day in the final cut.

These were shot with my Sony A7iii and Rokonon 14mm wide lens; composited with Microsoft ICE; color and cropping were done in Lightroom; removals and smoothing done in Photoshop; and final finishes were done in Topaz Labs Impression. What do you think?

Stitch of about 4 images cleaned, trimmed, removed people and car

Progressive Images

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Funerals: Pre and Post Covid19

2020 is now book-ended with funerals for me.

I try to avoid funerals, but my elders are passing and I feel honor bound to show up in some way. This month, I attended a service via Zoom for the first time. Honestly, a remote memorial doesn’t feel quite real.

Service via Zoom

My paternal grandmother died in December 2012. The following spring, her surviving four sisters hosted a memorial for her in Chicago. I was the only member of my grandmother’s line to show up, though she had three surviving children, many grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. My dad preceded her in death, as did my brother. My sister had been hard to connect with after our brother’s funeral. I had been living in New York City, isolated from family, so the thought of connecting with my grandmothers sisters was ambrosia for me. They knew who I was and I was familiar with one or two, but I didn’t really grow up around them. So, I was eager to sit and listen to their stories.

In April 2013, Great-Aunt Juanita hosted her living sisters and their descendants in honor of their recently lost sister, Jurl, my grandma, near Chicago. I traveled with my camera and captured some great candid shots, family groupings and intimate portraits. The sisters also brought along photos of their gatherings through the years. I’ve photographed a few funerals and gatherings in honor of loved ones over the years. As morbid as the subject may sound, the images are full of joy and love.

In 2015, I returned to Chicago for a conference and was happily able to connect with three of my great aunts at Great-Aunt Faye’s home in South Chicago.

In November 2019, I was compelled to attend my Great-Aunt Cherrie’s funeral in Gary, Indiana. She was the eldest sibling of thirteen Stuart children born in a small town near Little Rock, Arkansas.

On December 1, 2020, Great-Aunt Faye left us for the light on the other side. Her daughter reached out to ask if I had any photos of her from Aunt Cherrie’s funeral last year. I found quite of few of her from last year and my prior visits in 2013 and 2015. She was a light and a joy.

The Sisters

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My Favorite Things About NYC

As presented to a kindergarten class.

Today I did my first photography presentation to a K-5 class in Southern Tucson.

I’ve been subbing and yesterday, I had a conversation with teacher about where we were before Tucson. When I shared about Harlem, she mentioned that her lesson plan this week included a comparison storyline between New York City and the small town of Alden in Upstate New York. She then asked if I would mind speaking to her class about my time in New York City. I immediately said, yes and, “I’ll bring some pictures!”

Well life being what it is, I didn’t have time to sort through thousands of images on my hard drive to select what I considered to be kid-friendly – food, animals, parks, etc. When I got to school today, I stopped by Ms. Joseph’s class to tell her I hadn’t had time to search my photos the night before. She was like, “No, problem, just talk.” I immediately saw that I wasn’t getting out of the K-5 presentation I had agreed to. On the way back to my first post of the day, I realize I had a photo archive in my pocket on my Instagram feed.

The classroom equipment in this school is sort of space-age in my opinion. Computers, laptops, a transparency projecting machine that looks like a reading light! I’ve been hard-pressed not to let my awe show. Because of the excellent classroom tech, I realized I could simply connect my phone to the teacher’s workspace to project my images on the white board at the front of the class.

It all went off without a hitch and now I’m a hit with the five year-olds! 🙂 I can’t tell you how they made my day! Later, in the halls, at lunch and during end of day dismissal, they and their teacher, made sure to tell me how much they enjoyed my presentation, which pictures were their favorites and how others should get to see them as well.

So here, I am sharing some more. All images below were taken for my real estate IG account @ljonesrealtor. Connect with me there.

The skyline, architecture and buildings have individual and combined stories.

I LOVE Central Park!

Brooklyn Bridge Park is like a state secret

Harlem is part of my heart.

Lady Liberty represents the spirit of the City

ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do
and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not
at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the

sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:


Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Flush.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life, learn some and think some
and draw and paint and sing and dance and play
and work every day some.

from All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten
by Robert Fulghum
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Virtual Phoenix Urban Expo – TODAY

Hi  👋 join me today at the Virtual Urban Expo 2020 by Greater Phoenix Urban League Young Professionals – Saturday, November 14, 2020!

 

 

Hi Everyone – this Hopin event will begins at 10:00am Mountain Time and goes until 3:00pm on Saturday, November 14, 2020. Join me! Chat. Order. Enjoy the speakers. When it’s time, you can join the event by going to the event page.

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Branching out into RE Video

SH-Images.com now offering video tours and virtual open houses for agents, brokers and home sellers.

Prior to receiving a call from an agent I met some months ago at an open house, I had not considered shooting virtual open house videos. His request that I shoot a virtual tour of his listing opened me to new opportunities for my creative work and a viable income stream.

In this post, I’m sharing two different edits of this first real estate video job. Many versions of the video were created as I learned the software. Each version taught me something new about how I can improve on the next shoot, how to shoot to avoid certain editing needs, how to edit to improve my footage and even how to coach for voice over recordings. I learned many things that fall into many different job categories: software features, shooting technique, lighting, voice-over, music overlay and editing it all! This first shoot was a very interesting and fulfilling experience.
I used Premiere Pro 2020 for the first round of edits. I have the Adobe Suite for my photography so it was an easy choice to begin with. The primary issue I ran into with Premiere is that processing (rendering and stabilizing images) took a long time. After watching several training videos I realized my six year old computer doesn’t have the power to process video in the default quality size of Premiere Pro 2020 fast. From several threads I read on forums, many folks talked about how they left Premiere for DaVinci Resolve. The cherry on top of the high quality output from DaVinci was it’s price tag: FREE. Adobe went to a subscriber model a few years ago and I am now paying over $600 a year for a product I don’t use nearly as much as I should for that price. I thought it prudent to give DaVinci a try. I noticed right away that processing was much quicker. That being said I couldn’t figure out how to add titles (the way I wanted them) in DaVinci and ended up exporting the DaVinci video into Premiere to add my text.
All in all, I’m looking forward to building on what I learned to provide a great service and product.
First round of edits with Premiere Pro 2020

Second round of edits with DaVinci Resolve 16

Videos by LaShawnda Jones for https://SH-Images.com

#realestate #realestatevideo #virtualtours #virtualopenhouse #voiceover #videoediting #skillup#realestate #realtor #realestateagent #photographer #photography #virtualopenhouse #videotour #virtual #quarantine #makeitwork