Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Interview with Greg Ledermann

This week's interview is with the talented wildlife photographer, Greg Ledermann. Greg has brought his photographs to the Etsy community. (To see even more of his work, visit his website, Nature is Art.) I was lucky to find Greg during one of my (endless) searches for owl photography on Etsy. And even luckier still--Greg took time out of his busy show schedule for an interview.

Jen: How did you begin photographing animals and nature?

Greg: Ever since I was a little boy I've been interested in animals. I was always bringing wild creatures home as pets, much to the dismay of my mother! Fast forward almost 30 years to a day I was taking a hike in a park near my home where I saw some people standing on the trail with 35mm cameras and telephoto lenses attached to their tripods, photographing little birds like chickadees and nuthatches. I thought that was pretty cool and struck up a conversation with them. It turns out they belonged to a local camera club and invited me to attend a meeting. I joined the club and in a few weeks I was also standing on that trail photographing little birds!

Looking back on it I wish I had "married" my fascination with animals to photography much earlier in my life but it's been a passion of mine now for over 20 years and as they say...better late than never!

Jen: Is photography your "day" job or something you do on the side? How long did it take to make your dream a reality?

Greg: I'm very fortunate that photography is my "day" job. I exhibit my photos at between 25 and 30 art fairs/shows each year, sometimes putting 40,000 miles a year on my van traveling to and from the fairs in many different states. I started doing shows part time about 20 years ago while I still held a full time job and after about three years left my "real" job and went full time into the art show business.

Although selling my photography is my full time occupation the business end of preparing for shows, traveling to and from them, the paperwork, etc. is extremely time consuming. I thought that when I went into the business full time I'd have much more time to photograph. After all I was going to be a "full time" photographer. But this just hasn't been the case. My photo business is just that...a business and it's just as, if not more, time consuming as having a full time job. Although many people will tell me they love my "work" I don't consider the actual photography to be work. Doing shows is my work/job. I still look at the actual photography as my hobby.

Jen: What has been your favorite animal or subject to photograph?

Greg: This sounds cliché but I've loved all the animals I've photographed and the travel I've experienced to photograph them. If I had to pick a favorite though I guess it would be songbirds. These were my first subjects and I still enjoy sitting in my blind in my backyard or standing along the trail in that local park and waiting for the birds to come to have their photo taken. This might sound crazy, I know my wife thinks it is, but I love to sit in my blind in our backyard on a sunny 20 degree winter day and photograph little birds. All of my neighbors are at work and all I can hear is the calls of chickadees, cardinals and the other birds. There's nothing more serene or peaceful in my opinion. That's why I have a tough time considering it work. :-)

Jen: How did you discover Etsy?

Greg: I was doing a show in Pittsburgh, PA last summer and the artist set up next to me had an Etsy shop and told me about it. (He has since closed his shop.) I made a note to look into it but I'm extremely busy during the summer and fall doing shows so I didn't really get to check Etsy out until after my shows were done for the year in December. I opened my shop on December 14, 2007 and so far it's been a fun and profitable supplement to my art fair income.

Jen: If you could only bring one lens along with you in your camera bag, which would it be?

Greg: When you buy a camera you're often sold a 50mm "normal" lens to go with it. Well, my normal lens is my 400mm telephoto. That's the lens that's attached to my camera most of the time. When photographing wildlife you often need as much reach as you can get. I often wish I had a 500mm or 600mm lens!

Jen: Do you have any advice for other photographers or Etsians?

Greg: I found that joining a camera club was one of the best things I could have done to improve my photography, although I don't belong to the club any longer. Ours was a competition club so if you wanted to compete successfully you had to develop your skills. Find a club that stresses education. Even though we competed against each other at our competitions one of the more experienced photographers was appointed commentator. They always found something positive to say about a photo but then would say something like "but, if the photographer wanted to improve this photo they could try doing ...". I tried to absorb as much as I could from those with more experience than I and before too long I was winning my share of competitions. If there isn't a club near you there are forums on the internet which can serve the same purpose. Just be sure the participants offer constructive criticisms of your photos.

I'm always reading about the craft of photography and trying to learn new techniques. I also spend a lot of time reading about my subjects and their behaviors since that will help me get the best photographs of them but given my natural interest in my subject matter I'd probably do that even if I wasn't photographing them. And, for me at least, I think it's been important to stick with what I love. Wildlife photography isn't the most marketable type of photography on Etsy, or at art fairs for that matter, but I think my passion for it shows in my photos. I've tried to photograph in other styles or other subjects that "sell" better but since I'm not passionate about those styles or subjects that also shows so I've learned to stick with what I like the best.

Check out more of Greg's work here:

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Nature is Art

Thursday, May 22, 2008

This Brightened My Morning!!

A little past 8 a.m. this morning, Lisa from Penny Fabric Art sent me a note to let me know our blue morpho butterfly photo had made the front page! What a great way to start the day!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Interview with Karen Casey-Smith

This is the first of an enjoyable series in my blog featuring the work of other photographers and Etsians.

I'm kicking off the feature with the talented Karen Casey-Smith, who is a member of Photographers of Etsy (POE). What drew me to Karen's shop was her incredible flower mandalas. As a nature photographer myself, I was mesmerized with the way Karen was able to take her flower photographs and transform them into another work of art.

But I'll let Karen take it from here.


Jen: How did you begin photographing flowers and nature?

Karen: I've always loved flowers and plants, and am a bit of a gardener. It was really because of my flower mandalas that I became serious about photography. Once I'd made a few of them, I wanted more photos for material to create more mandalas. After my first day shooting at the Chicago Botanic Garden, I was in love with photography. Flowers are so incredible and inspiring.

Originally the images I photographed were only taken with the thought of being material to make mandalas, not for stand alone images. Once I got them into my computer, I thought many were beautiful photos in their own right. I think they turned out well because I was in love with everything I photographed. :)

Eckhart Tolle, in his book A New Earth, speaks so elegantly of flowers:

"Seeing beauty in a flower could awaken humans, however briefly, to the beauty that is an essential part of their own innermost being, their true nature. The first recognition of beauty was one of the most significant events in the evolution of human consciousness. The feelings of joy and love are intrinsically connected to that recognition. Without fully realizing it, flowers would become for us an expression in form of that which is most high, most sacred, and ultimately formless within ourselves. Flowers, more fleeting, more ethereal, and more delicate than the plants out of which they emerged, would become like messengers from another realm, like a bridge between the world of physical forms and the formless."

Isn't that wonderful? That expresses my feeling for flowers better than I could have said it myself.

Jen: Is photography your "day" job or something you do on the side?

Karen: Right now photography is a huge part of my creative endeavors, and that is my day job. I have to say I could not do this without my husband's support. I'm really lucky. The business side of things is still pretty new to me, so I'm in the process of building this into a financial success. I'm learning as I go and study an incredible amount! There's much to learn about business and marketing, continuing to develop my photography skills, color management, and the incredibly deep Photoshop.

I've always enjoyed making art and working in different mediums including drawing, watercolor, ink, calligraphy, colored pencils, Photoshop, Illustrator and photography. The dream is not something I hold out as a goal but try to experience as a reality. I don't know if it's the same for other artists as it is for me, but time seems to stop when I'm creating new work.

Jen: Can you tell me more about your mandalas?

Karen: Since I first read Judith Cornell's book Mandala in 1995, my work has primarily been in the mandala form, first in colored pencils and now with flower photographs. Mandalas combine my two great interests, that of creating art and healing. Mandalas are used as a healing and transforming art in cultures around the world. It is always an amazing experience, and a delightful surprise to see the patterns that emerge while making the flower mandalas.

For many years now, I've been involved in energy healing and balancing, using Tai Chi, Reiki, Acupressure, plus other systems. All of these things influence and infuse my work. Each mandala carries its own vibrational frequency, and assists in bringing balance and more of that energy into your life. They bring in healing energy where they are displayed and to whoever wears or views them.

Whatever you choose to surround yourself with affects you on multiple levels.

Jen: How did you learn how to make them?

Karen: When I first saw flower mandalas, I felt compelled to try making one myself! To begin with, I simply cut out interesting sections of a picture I'd taken of a hollyhock growing in the front yard, and started pasting them together in Photoshop. The blue mandala called Communion (seen at left), was my first flower mandala. It has well over fifty layers. That's the only one made in that way! After that, I did a Google search and found that others were using templates to help create them, so I made a set of my own. I work intuitively when deciding which flowers to use and how to place them. I use Photoshop masking most often to create the interesting outside edges.

Jen: How did you discover Etsy?

Karen: One of my very best friends, the extremely talented L. Michelle Johnson, e-mailed me the link. She said she had found this website (Etsy) and thought of me. She's also the person who first made me aware of flower mandalas!

Jen: Do you have any advice for other photographers or Etsians?

Karen: It's well worth the time to learn about the printmaking process and color management, from calibrating your monitor and devices to using color profiles, to insure that you have quality prints that match your vision.

Do your work with a feeling of gratitude, and keep touch with why you love it, and why you chose it. This way it will always be an adventure, alway be fresh.

Check out more of Karen's work here:

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Whew! Whirlwind weekend!

First off, I updated my previous blog entry to show that completed tablecloth! Enjoy!

Today I finished task #4 on my list--I assembled and sewed that fabric booklet for my friend's son! Check it out!

Hopefully I'll at least finish the wrap skirt before the deadline tomorrow! Wish me luck! :)

Additional updates:

Also, a special thank you to everyone who turned out to our first fair of the season in Fairfield. I was unable to go myself, but sent my husband along to represent our work in the booth with Lauren (my business partner and friend). :)

Also, in the coming weeks, look for a new feature to be added to this blog. I hope it keeps it interesting! :)

EDIT: May 20, 2008:
The skirt -- unfortunately -- did not come to be! But I am so glad that I participated in the Spring Cleaning Challenge! I met wonderful people --literally around the world -- and had a great excuse to finish those projects! Thank you to Ellia for thinking of this wonderful idea! And thank you to my sponsor, Nicole, for cheering me along!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Almost at the finish line!

I know I owe some photos up here-- I am going to get to it soon, I promise! Tomorrow I decided to take off from work, so I can at least get everything packed up and ready to go for our first fair of the season on Saturday. (See my store for more details.) The past few nights I've been pretty scatterbrained as I try to make chains (sterling silver) for my photo pendants (a new feature I plan on offering in my shop as soon as this fair is over!), more sun catchers, more photo cards, more matted photos -- AHH! It's enough to make your head spin! Well--mine anyway! So since I must return to class tonight, I definitely need a couple of hours back! (And whew, I still have a lot of sewing to do for the spring cleaning challenge!)

But on a side note, I came across this blog today through the Photographers of Etsy forum (a street team on Etsy that I belong to). Karen Casey Smith (a gifted photographer) had her etsy mini featured, so I decided to go check it out! This is a fantastic idea. Be sure to check Buried Treasury out!

So -- hopefully my next posting will contain photographs of my completed items!!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Woo hoo!!

I finished the second task on my spring cleaning list! Last night I completed my Valentine's Day tablecloth from almost two years ago!! It was such a nice feeling to have finally completed it. When I abandoned it long ago, I had only sewed two sides. So I had to pin and sew the remaining two sides last night.

I am working with a local frame shop to get the mats I need for my fifth project on the spring cleaning list. The place I was going to order the mats from online raised their shipping fees and were going to charge me $40!!!!! Just for shipping!!!! So luckily right down the road from where I work is The Gilded Edge. I am pretty sure they can "hook me up." :) They are closed today, so I plan on checking in tomorrow on the progress. The frames I ordered are in production-- not sure if they will make it to the apartment in time for the deadline, but at least I ordered them! That was the task I put off for over a year!

I'm going to work on project #4 today during my lunch break. I brought the fabric pieces with me to work to make the book, so I'm hoping I can get everything pinned so all I need to do is sew everything together tonight!

Pastry school kept me pretty busy this weekend. We had to make our own wedding cakes. I'm pretty happy with how mine came out, considering it's my first wedding cake ever.

The sun is shining again, after hiding all of last week. I hope it stays nice and sunny all the way through Sunday! Our first fair of the season is Saturday and my hubby is going to be representing our work with Lauren while I'm off completing my cake final at school. He's so good to me. :)

Thursday, May 1, 2008


What a way to brighten my day! :)
That's my pansy photo card in the third row! Hurray!

Donation updates

I'd like to take some time out to update my wonderful customers the status of current donations.

As you know, 20% of the sales in my shop (after paypal, shipping, and etsy fees) is donated to 3Bunnies Rabbit Rescue, located at 3Bunnies.org.

In January and February, $10.61 was slated to help 3Bunnies. We rounded up that donation to $25.

Our March and April totals have been tallied, and $16.92 was slated for 3Bunnies. In April, we also learned about poor Wrigley who needed help paying for some expensive veterniary bills, so we included our own personal donation when sending the amount, for a total of $50 donation to 3Bunnies.

EFA Donation Update
I also offer select items in my shop where 100% of the sales (after paypal, shipping and etsy fees) is donated to the Etsy for Animals charity of the month. For April, the selected charity was Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary, located in Montana.

This is the first time one of my 100% donations sold, and how appropriate that it was the Dog Gone Crazy Photo Greeting Card set! After fees, the total donation came to $10.17, but we decided to round up that donation to $25. (The official total donation by all EFA members is still being calculated.)

Thank you to all my fabulous customers!