Monday, December 1, 2014

Image of the Month: December 2014

"We all look at the same things, yet see different things."   Claude Monet

Art can be complex, mysterious, engaging, symbolic; all these things and many more.  But catching a quick glimpse of people as they view a piece of art is also just as interesting.  I was doing assignment work at a gallery opening when I noticed just how fun it was to observe people interact with the art.  In this image below, I was slightly amused when the gentleman's body position appeared to mirror the leaning form of the twisted vertical glass sculpture he was viewing. 

It would certainly be fun to see what the gentleman was thinking, like a cartoon bubble overhead with his thoughts.  In lieu of that, it got me thinking and just wondering about people's interpretation of art in general, like ........

  • What were his first impressions?
  • How do people respond to art?
  • What is the aesthetic experience of perceiving and enjoying art?
  • What is the relationship between art and emotion?
Basically....why look at art?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Image of the Month: November 2014

What's the saying..."if life gives you lemons, make lemonade" or something to that effect.  Nearly 3 months now since the "flood of the century" here in Southeast Michigan; greater Detroit area, and residents are still deeply in the midst of basement renovation.  Being a photographer I naturally found myself capturing tons of images of the original devastation for documentation purposes.  That soon evolved into taking the more recent  "before and during" pictures, as nothing has quite yet reached the pinnacle of the "after" stage that would indicate mission accomplished of complete renovation and life back to normalcy.  

Since most, if not all of my time has been devoted to scouting, hiring, and monitoring a variety of tradespeople I yearned for a creative outlet and return to my routine of taking landscape images.  As my contractor duties escalated, escaping to capture landscape images was out of the question.  Never one to admit defeat, I began to view the renovation of my pathetic basement as a creative challenge to find the beauty and art in something tragic and mundane.  Thus the evolution of an idea and brief portfolio that is for the moment referred to as my Flood Art. As I continued gathering these "before and during" images I began to view them as a artistic challenge and make "disaster art" of the mess and chaos; the transition from damaged to new again. As a variety of tradespeople performed their magic, I began to experiment in presenting the mason work, tile removal, painting and such of the basement walls and floor as raw material for an abstract form of art. Sometimes even one original image of work in progress, for example wall repair, made an abundance of creative options, each more interesting than the previous.

© 2014, Joanne Scherf.

Here's a simple explanation of my Flood Art in the "during" phase.  I'm using a diptych format since it clearly highlights the differences from one view to another.  Here you can clearly see in it's side-by-side format the difference between the new mason repair work on the left, with my creative and abstract interpretation on the right.  Even as I write this, I'm thinking that creating art from just the before or during phase of renovation would be more interesting as abstract art since once the walls are finished the paint will cover the detailed lines of the mason work thus eliminating the intriguing patterns altogether. Something to consider as I continue with this concept.

Once I've created one or many creative interpretations of work being done on either the walls or floor, I want to present the image in it's final form, without the pre-post view the diptych provides.  So, below is the image from the right side of the diptych as a square image.  Looking at it without knowledge of the above diptych, one would never know it was actually basement windows highlighting recent mason work revealing the new mortar lines of the cinder block basement walls, on their way to the next phase of painting.

© 2014, Joanne Scherf

Another example for me to continue to search for everyday scenes and circumstances that provide an opportunity to flex my creative muscle.  Remember.....lemonade!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Image of the Month: October 2014

Putting aside the usual abstract adventure I've typically been showcasing for Image of the Month, I decided to go old school with a classic black & white.  This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in the recognition of the first women's field hockey varsity team at University of Michigan, or as they are often referred to as Team 1  (year of 1973).  

Watching the current University of Michigan's women's team play Rutgers and celebrate the dedication of the new Phyllis Ocker Field & and Athletic Center I decided to use the vintage approach of black & white as an homage to the earlier times of 1973 when the first field hockey varsity team hit the field.  There's something to be said for the simplicity of black and white as it removes the distraction of color that often impedes the viewer from focusing on the content of the image as opposed to fixating on the attention grabbing color.  

The other reason this image made the cut for the October showcase is the composition.  As previously inferred, simplicity is typically neglected and an understated art form that is too often ignored as a basic element of composition.  Or in other words, the Gestalt psychology principles can lead to more dynamic tension filled with lines, form, tension and overall excitement.

Just as a refresher, here's the basic principles of Gestalt psychology as it applies to photography:
  1. Figure-Ground.  Are you able to differentiate a form from its surroundings? This helps to control your audience's perception of what to focus on.  Here the players are distinctly set apart from their surroundings of the open field surface.
  2. Proximity.  Elements placed close to each other is often perceived as one group.  In this case the closeness of a large number of teammates and field officials unifies them together and is perceived by your eye as one large object.
  3. Symmetry & Balance.  This is based on the Golden Ratio or Rule of Thirds.  You can direct the viewer's focus onto a select area of the image by creating equilibrium, whether it's symmetrical or in the above image, an asymmetrical balance.  This placement of the team in the upper third immediately places interest in that area.
  4. Similarity.  Elements that have similarities will often be viewed together as a group or pattern.  Deliberate use of similarity can add more meaning to an image.
  5. Continuity.  Here the viewer's eye is compelled to move in a direction inferred by the composition.  In this image, the field lines that converge at the center of the team's gathering compels the viewer to follow the leading lines to the central focal point....the team.
  6. Closure.  It's about giving the brain enough information so that it can finish forming figures even if they aren't explicitly in the image itself.  It's closely related to Continuity and Similarity, the human brain follows contours and lines even when information is incomplete.  
This is all to say, consider your composition and the principles of Gestalt psychology when taking your next image.  And remember, simplicity is a beautiful thing.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Image of the Month: September 2014

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us...

These famous lines from the opening of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens succinctly describes the recent "flood of the century" in my neighborhood.  Although certainly not the scale of Katrina or Sandy, the wrath of Mother Nature destroyed over 75% of the homes in it's path of unprecedented raging storm releasing raw sewage to waist height and beyond.  

...worst of times
......epoch of incredulity
........season of darkness

These are just a few of the key words from that famous quote that stand out.  But in dealing with the disaster I experienced humankind at its finest.  The sense of camaraderie and community was refreshing, encouraging, and the epitome of neighborly assistance reached new meaning when rescue teams from several states rode into town to save the day.  

@2014, Joanne Scherf

While this is indeed an Image of the Month post, it has relevance to the storm's damage.  Taking a break from my clean-up chores, I went for a walk along my usual route in the neighborhood to canvas the overall scene of destruction.  Views of homes from the street were blocked by 5 and 6 foot piles of trash; a collection of memorabilia, collections, clutter and just pure junk that filled storage spaces, long neglected and yet overlooked as potential contributions for weekly trash days.  This mandatory purging ultimately resulted in over 2300 tons of garbage curbside for pick-up, when only 30 tons was the weekly norm.

This image of the month is actually an image of trash, in this case piles of books, randomly scattered on a front lawn.  The potential of the image caught my eye for several reasons.  
  • The potential of art surrounds us even in our mundane, everyday lives.  In local environments such as one's neighborhood, there's opportunity everywhere.
  • The random piling of books scattered at the base of a tree's trunk made me think this was somehow a translation of a tree of knowledge.  It appeared as if the books were fallen leaves, scattered at whim
In my interpretation I wanted to demonstrate the innate beauty while at the same time convey the ruins by highlighting the destruction and warping of the books by special effects of texture.  Cropping from the original image also allowed me to focus on the mass selection of books and just a hint of the tree's trunk at the top of the image.  This composition was intended to focus on the books while perhaps providing a sense of mystery as to the tree and overall scene, an almost ethereal and surreal view of storm damage.
.............everything before us

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Image of the Month: August 2014

What is more important than camera equipment, printer resolution or ink type?  According to Ansel Adams, "visualization is the single most important factor in photography".  To put it simply, photography is the art of "seeing" and visualization is the ability to anticipate a finished image before making the exposure.  It's the act of looking at a scene and imagining what the image will look like in its final format and all of the steps the image will need to go through to produce the final image.  This awareness of how a scene will translate the emotional equivalent experienced by the image maker to viewer causes you to slow down and think through the entire process of producing a final image.  

As a photographer I also have to consider what post-processing techniques I plan to use that will enhance the image to authentically translate my original intent. What is the intended emotional reaction I want to elicit from the viewer?  I strongly believe that a photographer is an artist and not just a crazed techie with a machine gun, rapid rate shutter button  resulting in hundreds of images, hoping to find one that is viable.  That is to say, there is true intent in the visualization process where I work through my approach in both visualization and post-processing steps.  There is actually a considerable amount of time just observing, seeing, thinking, composing, and adjusting before actually pressing the shutter.  It's a slow, meticulous process that reaps huge benefits.  Even if you have a camera with auto focus, auto exposure and such, you can still take quality time to actually think about what it is you are trying to convey with your final image.

So with that in mind, my tool selection in post-processing is a critical element for me when I visualize exactly how I want the final image to appear.  Because I take a creative approach to the original exposure, there is often a discrepancy between the original and final image.  The two images may not be exactly identical but if given the flow of creativity, the viewer would be able to see the similarity and discover the evolution of the image along the journey from original to final image translation.

Below is the original image exposure.  It was a cold, cloudy day off the California coastline walking path.  My intent was to demonstrate the vivid beauty of spring's floral landscape, despite the dreary weather, and at the same time make it more ethereal and less realistic.  I also considered that the asymmetry was not working, so I would have to take that into account in post-production. To create my final vision I knew I would be working with saturation levels, highlighting, dodging, and softening both composition and edges with blur techniques.

Original Image: Before Processing
© 2014, Joanne Scherf

As you can now see, the final image below demonstrates the final vision.  I made the floral landscape pop with vibrant color, while at the same time using highlights judiciously to lead the viewer's eye into the center of the composition in both horizontal and vertical movement. Another change was to go from an asymmetrical to symmetrical composition which I think fills the frame much better as the road alongside each edge now hints at the traveler's dilemma; which path to take?

Final Image: Post-Processing
© 2014, Joanne Scherf

The advantage of visualization is that it allows one to experiment with different creative options, running the gamut from composition, lighting, camera placement, movement and editing enhancements.  This is what takes your images to the next level and sets it apart from the volumes of realistic reportage of the average shutterbug. 

I recently read an article by Ron Bigelow on this very topic and I'm paraphrasing his key points below:

  • Emotion: Which emotional reaction do I want the image to elicit from a viewer
  • Appearance of the Final ImageKnowing the desired reaction to the image allows me to visualize how the final image will look
  • Materials:  What materials will produce the desired effect? 
  • Editing:  What post-production techniques should be considered and used?
  • Optimal Method of Shooting:  What are the composition, framing, lighting, angle, and camera placement options?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Double Vision: Balancing Personal and Commercial Work

As a full time professional artist one is confronted with the challenge of producing an income stream.  This means reconciling what appears to be polar opposites; maintaining a balance between one's art (personal work) and commercial work that you do for hire to "pay the bills".  Commercial photography has typically been viewed by many as "selling out".  As I see it however, being a professional artist is more of a delicate balance between art and commerce; a way to continually hone one's craft.

This is a continuous struggle for all artists that became more evident as I recently finished reading Ansel Adams: An Autobiography.  The interesting fact is that I first read this book 12 years ago, but decided to re-read it after a recent trip to Yosemite National Park where the ghost of Ansel Adams was evident everywhere.  My first read basically ended with "that's a nice book" and put it in my collection for possible future reference.  Fast forward to the present whereupon my second reading elicited a reaction that was more of an "a ha" experience where I got much more out of it.  Basically I was struck by a repetitive anthem of not only Ansel's dilemma of making a living strictly with his photography, but also that of other well known photographers.

© Ansel Adams

  •  Ansel Adams:  Personal - landscape; Commercial - portraiture
  • Edward Weston:  Personal - landscape/still life; Commercial - portraiture
  • Imogene Cunningham:  Personal - botanical/still life; Commercial - portraiture
  • Dorthea Lange:  Personal - documentary; Commercial - portraiture

© Imogene Cunningham

Do you see the trend here?  For artists that were ultimately regarded and made famous for their personal work, they all had an income stream provided by their commercial work.  In this case I also found it an interesting fact that they all did portraiture as their chosen source for paying the bills.  So rather than viewing your commercial work as "selling out" it's important to see the value it provides.  It is a balancing act to exist in both worlds, but at the same time imperative for the success of your photography profession; one cannot sustain themselves in either the commercial aspect or personal work alone.  A combination is required for a steady income stream (commercial) that ultimately feeds the soul (personal). 

So looking at both sides of the coin, both commercial and personal venues has specific benefits that should not be overlooked.  I figure it it's good enough for the legendary Ansel, Edward, Imogene and Dorthea, it's worth taking a look at what each provides. 


  • more opportunities for collaboration with other creatives (e.g., art directors) and business associates
  • professional and business development faster than limited scope of isolated practice of personal work 
  • can influence one's personal work
  • provides income stream to continue personal work


  • allows constant movement in fresh direction
  • feeds the soul
  • pushes the boundaries of one's creative muscle
  • can influence one's commercial work
  • opportunity to experiment and develop style and technique
  • no requirements or constraints; no client to please
  • freedom to fail

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Image of the Month: July 2014

This image of the month is quite special to me for several reasons.  It exemplifies my philosophy of creating images that go beyond being "just pretty" in the attempt to convey an emotional connection from the viewer, or as my brand pronounces....images that transcend.  In this case, I captured the image literally within safe distance from the potent and mighty force of the water's energy with no zoom or telescopic lens, just me and my iPhone.  I've done considerable hiking and encountered a variety of waterfalls, but Vernal Falls in Yosemite is probably the most powerful and mesmerizing cascade that has left quite an impression on me, so much so that I shot a brief video for my personal remembrance and Zen moments when needed.

© 2014, Joanne Scherf

Access to the base and ultimately top of the falls is done via the Mist Trail.  Aptly named, a section of the trail hangs on the vertical precipice as one climbs over 600 natural granite steps embedded in the mountain side.  A soft, fine mist from the falls softly envelopes hikers on this section of the trail, to a point of being completely drenched, then ultimately dried upon conquering the summit of the falls origin.   The other reason this image is special is my luck at being present for the appearance of the rainbow at the base, created by the appropriate mixture of sunlight and crystal elements of the mist as it rises from the valley floor.  More succinctly, my stillness of mind and being present to actually see what presented itself directly before me.  As if that weren't enough, other images in this collection portray a horizontal view of the fall's base with a double rainbow.  A sign of good luck; one can only hope.

One last note worth mentioning about this image.  I'll write at length about this theory later but for now let me briefly introduce, Miksang.  Miksang means "good eye" in Tibetan; a form of contemplative photography that expresses the experience of seeing by the photographer.  In this case my goal is to create images that carries within them my heart, mind, and soul of my experience as I capture a moment in time. It's about engaging in the present moment, requiring stillness of mind, patience, and the desire to really see what is there, using a camera to express my visual perception exactly as I see it.  My trademark approach goes well beyond being just a pretty picture, it'a all about conveying an experience where one EXPLORES the potential, ENGAGES your soul, and enables one to ESCAPE reality (registered TM).

I'm considering perhaps creating inspirational posters of similar Yosemite (and other travel sites).  Your thoughts are most welcome on this.  Interested?  Do people still purchase posters and frame them.  I digress, but surely something to think about.  Also thinking about creating an eBook on this collection for those more inclined to technology....more news and updates to follow.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Put the Equipment Down and Re-Energize Your Creative Juices

I just returned from a two week hiking vacation in Yosemite National Park; my first introduction to this incredible California site.  A hiker's dream and immensely looking forward to the trip, a dilemma presented itself as I was packing.  With the desire to truly have a vacation I contemplated the pros and cons of taking my heavy, cumbersome professional camera and lenses.  Or not.  Although the tripod was mandatory for any long exposure work, I had already decided to eliminate that option early on as the tripod was just too much gear that compounded the transport of hiking backpacks, trekking poles and whatnot.

So the question was either to take the professional equipment or be a free spirit hiking the trails and more mobile with just my iPhone.  After much turmoil I ultimately decided to really take a break from "seeing as a photographer" and truly enjoy being in the moment of such glorious, breathtaking scenery.  The iPhone would serve as a form of documentation of sorts; something to jog my memory for future Yosemite trip planning.  And if lucky enough, I might consider capturing a handful of truly mesmerizing images if the spirit moved me.

Which brings me to this point.  I thought I was crazy for even thinking of leaving all my equipment at home, but taking just my iPhone was absolutely the perfect decision for me at this time.  Without the expectation of seeing compositions in everything I looked at, and over-engaging my right brain I was free to essentially be in the moment and embrace a personal and soulful connection with favorite place!  I had previously been reading several sources whereupon the thought of not bringing my professional camera was first introduced to me as an option.  It reinforced my opinion that one needs to put the equipment down every once in a while to re-energize the creative juices and give the right brain a bit of a rest.  The ability to just look about and see the wonder without the expectation of composing an image for a client, juried exhibit or whatever was immensely freeing.  The iPhone truly served as a source to capture something of true interest so the hiking remained the primary driver of where I went and what experience I encountered.

Jack Pine at Olmstead Point
© 2014, Joanne Scherf

That said, this image is one example when I was moved to capture something.  It's even more interesting to me as I discovered later that I actually shot a "double exposure" without knowing it.  I'm guessing that the "double" is actually a close-up of the granite floor I was climbing on at the moment that accidently merged into a double image of the Jack Pine tree.  This "mistake" made the image more interesting by adding an element of texture that kicked the aha response up a notch.

It's also a great example of a previous blog posting where I discussed the Chinese concept of wu wei (oooo-way) or Trying Not to Try - The Science of Spontaneity.  Wu Wei is all about an internal sense of effortlessness, effectiveness and being unselfconsciousness.  Basically, quiet the mind and be open and mindful to spontaneous possibilities.  Oh yes, the Jack Pine image also reinforces the theory that failure is success.  Without me mistakenly making a double exposure image I never would have created such a beautiful image of a lone tree on the summit of Olmstead Point.

Bottom your mind and go out once and a while without your equipment and be open to the discovery of mistakes.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Image of the Month: May 2014

© 2014, Joanne Scherf
This month I'm sharing an image that resulted in somewhat of a mishap. However I decided to just go with the momentum and stay with it to see where it ended up.  This image is a perfect example of my previous two blog entries, where I believe "Failure IS Success", and "The Art of Trying NOT To Try".

It's one of my newest images I will add to the most recent portfolio I'm working on, Aerial Arboretum.  As with the other images in this portfolio, it began as a simple portrait of a lonely tree.  With a few subsequent adjustments I further enhanced the image to offer the perspective of an aerial view.  In the normal process flow of my abstract work I typically create on average of about ten to fifteen images until I rest on the final interpretation where I experience the "aha" moment.

To be blunt, there were two aspects of the adjusted image that was not pleasing to me; no warm and fuzzy feelings just yet.  First the slight pixelation was distracting, and secondly a very slight pink hue appeared at about the seventh version of this image.  I was intrigued with the introduction of this soft pink hue and decided to use it to my advantage by increasing the size and then later doing some freestyle painting more of the pink hue into a sweeping element that provides a balance on many fronts.  With the continuous building of twelve to fifteen abstract versions to create just one final image a pixelation effect is often produced, so it's always a very tricky process.  The way around the pixelation issue was to use the blur tool to soften the edges and then backfill with the freestyle pink brush strokes.

Viola....the "aha" moment has occurred!  The message is mistakes happen that one can learn from.  Plus if you are mindful and open to possibilities, anything can be accomplished.  So this as-yet-to-be named image will be the newest addition to my Aerial Arboretum portfolio,!/portfolio/C0000vTXoT0.UTko/G0000ILYCLQGQHhA, all because I didn't let a few mishaps stand in my way.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Art of Trying NOT To Try

Austin Kleon from 'Show Your Work'

In order to achieve success, stop trying. Sounds counterintuitive, right?  I recently came across a theory based on an ancient Chinese concept called wu wei (oooo-way) from Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity by Edward Slingerland.  The literal translation of wu wei is "not trying" or "no doing". Though externally you appear to be very active in the pursuit of your art, there is an internal sense of effortlessness, effectiveness and unselfconsciousness.

What wu wei is NOT, is passivity and resignation.  In short, wu wei is a mindful cultivation of desirable behaviors that are nurtured to the point of being on auto-pilot so you are in the "zone" or "in the flow".  You are in a creative zone where you forget about trying so hard, and forget about not trying, until you are overcome with automatic behaviors that quietly dictates your move where deliberate and continued practice leads to mastery.  Call it flow or spontaneity, wu wei is a force to be reckoned with, a skill all artists crave.

So what does this have to do with photography?  Think about it.  As a photographer you're in constant pursuit of the perfect image, pre-visualized or otherwise, which by the way is unattainable because it is always going to be the next shot. You eventually get snookered into thinking that "if only I had _________ I could _________.  Some photographers fall victim with the obsession to have the latest technology, and not just in a limited quantity of "only one", but more likely an abundance of riches, thinking that's what preventing them from creating great art.  Not to be satisfied with just one lens, some think the greater collection of accessories, the better. If you really think a backpack, or rolling bag and cases filled with gadgets and lenses will make you a better photographer, then we've got a larger problem to address.

My point is this.  Embrace the concept of wu wei and don't get sidetracked by the equipment issue, or play the "what if" game.  Consider the following behaviors to get into your wu wei, or more to the point, try not to try so hard:

  • Quiet your mind, stop the internal "noise"
  • Take images of what interests YOU
  • Be mindful and open to spontaneous possibilities
  • Go on a photo shoot without structure (e.g.,no shot list)
  • Focus on your creative vision for the image 
  • Try something out of your comfort zone
  • Don't over-think the shot, or the project
  • Let your equipment take a backseat; your vision should dictate the shot
  • Give yourself the freedom to be playful and engage with the moment
  • Don't try so hard, let things happen in a spontaneous manner

In closing, here's a poem/story, The Way of Heaven from the book of Zhuangzi that demonstrates how to move through the world in a wu wei manner.

The Way of Heaven
Excels in overcoming, though it does not content;
In responding, though it does not speak;
In spontaneously attracting, though it does not summon;
In planning for the future, though it is always relaxed.
The Net of Heaven covers all;
Although its mesh is wide, nothing ever slips through.

Do not go out the door, and so understand the whole world;
Do not look out the window, and understand the Way of Heaven.
The farther you go, the less you know.
This is why the sage understands the world without going abroad,
Achieves clarity without having to look,
And attains success without trying.

For a more in-depth review of wu wei, Slingerland's book, Trying Not To Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity is available on Amazon

Friday, April 25, 2014

Failure IS Success

Yosemite from Ian Ruhter : Alchemist on Vimeo.

Failure.  The state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective, and may be viewed as the opposite of success.

As evident from Ian Ruhter's video, Yosemite, his greatest failure came close to destroying his personal belief in his own dreams.  And yet a year and a half later, after regaining his courage to make a second attempt, he was capable of producing his vision, wet plate collodion prints of Yosemite created from a mobile camera truck.

I have often considered that "failure" is overlooked as the profound teacher that it has the capacity to be. With all the focus and attention on success, one misses all the learning that happens along the journey.  In hot pursuit of success, it's easy to become fixated on the final outcome and not being open to change or unexpected deviations.  Art is not science, it's not the mechanical pursuit of a finite outcome achieved on a linear path.  As a professional photographer, it's more than just focus, shoot, then move onto the next subject or project; anyone with a camera can do that.  Rather, true art is freedom of creative movement and progression with many interruptions, challenges, and being adept at constantly changing direction.

I was amused to find several quotes that provide insight into the great experience of failure; perhaps some will be familiar.
"If you want to succeed, double your failure rate."  Thomas J. Watson
"A great deal can be learned from things going unexpectedly, and that part of science's success comes from keeping blunders small, manageable, constant, and trackable."  Kevin Kelly, Wired Magazine Editor
"Never let success get to your head and never let failure get to your heart."
"Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely."  Henry Ford
"Failure is an event, not a person.  Yesterday ended last night."  Zig Ziglar
 "Fall seven times, stand up eight."
"Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker.  Failure is delay, not defeat.  It is a temporary detour, not a dead end." 
"You'll never be brave if you don't get hurt.  You'll never learn if you don't make mistakes.  You'll never successful if you don't encounter failure."
"Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently."  Henry Ford 
"Failure is good as long as it doesn't become a habit."  Michael Eisner
"I have not failed.  I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."  Thomas Edison 

In a nutshell, my 5 axioms or beliefs about failure can be summarized as follows.  Keep them in mind when pursuing your next creative vision:

  1. Never lose faith in yourself, your dreams or creative vision 
  2. If you're not making mistakes, you're not trying hard enough
  3. Embrace mistakes, they are your best teacher
  4. Allow yourself permission to be vulnerable and not be afraid of falling down
  5. Failure is NOT weakness, it's NOT fatal; it's the strength to see new opportunities 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Venus Rising Published in Silvershotz

It's taken a year to go through the publication process but the wait was well worth the effort. I'm now proud to announce I am one of eleven women who have been featured in the just-released Silvershotz: International Journal of Contemporary Photography; Volume 8, Edition 5.  The main focus of this Silvershotz issue was written to promote the visibility of women working in the photographic arts, as we all happen to be a few select members of the Women in Photography International (WIPI) organization  Not only is this issue "all about women", but it's now a collector's item as the final print version of the Silvershotz publication before it continues as a digital subscription. To purchase a copy of this final print version, go to

Below you'll find the 4-page spread from the journal to get an idea of page layout and presentation.  Scroll down to the bottom of this post and you'll find three links:  a READABLE VERSION of My Article & Gallery (my 4-page spread, pages 72-75), Feature article, and press release

*Direct Link to My Article and Feature Gallery at      

Introductory Feature Article for all photographers at

Press Release at

As I was quoted in the article..."overall my signature style tends to be concept-driven images that elicit an emotional connection drawn by the simplicity of design, oftentimes with a layer of complexity that hovers behind the facade.  In the end, my work is more about translations rather than just seeing; my images are equivalents of emotions expressed over observed reality."

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Best New Find: Feature Shoot

As a member of the creative community it's always a challenge to self-promote yourself, more specifically, identifying the resource that can provide a positive lead to exposure, assignments, or just the personal connection with someone in the industry.

My newest discovery is a site, Feature Shoot!FofBF that appears to be a promising venue.  Alison Zavos is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief and photography editor.  She showcases all genres of work and since launching in 2008 has accumulated an archive of over 3,000+ international photographers and won's 2011 Photo Blog Award as the "Web's 20 most compelling, most consistently insightful and surprising photography blogs."  Learn about photographers in fine art, portraits, documentary, still life, landscape, video and other genres.  Plus the added bonus of being able to submit your work for the website, in addition to advertising options.

But what really caught my interest was an April 21 entry, 101 Photo Industry Professionals You Should Follow on Twitter.!FokqZ.  In this post Alison provides the reader with name, title and twitter contact info for 101 of professionals in the photo industry that run the gamut from editors, directors, curators, gallery owners, and then some.  For an artist in today's environment, it's all about self-promotion and the ability to have resources and contacts that can take you to the next level of exposure.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New Website Gallery: Aerial Arboretum: Changing Perspective

In my March 5 post I alluded to the fact that I was sharing a "work in progress" when it was just a gut feeling, "what if" idea, well before I had finalized my vision.  As I mentioned in the previous post, this was not my typical routine as I don't like sharing creative ideas until completely finished.  Well I'm happy to report that my original rough vision has evolved to its present state of having a strong, definitive approach that has led to my new portfolio/website gallery, Aerial Arboretum: Changing Perspective

First let me share my vision.  I have long admired trees as a favorite subject matter for my images. Texture, shadow, shape, pattern, and branching were often the focus of my botanical fascination as I captured images from ground level.  My challenge with this new portfolio project was to be able to present trees in a different manner, one that broke with tradition and offered something new and interesting.  So, to break a habit of repetitive vision, I pondered whether if I changed my perspective would that enhance my ultimate experience. I came to the realization that changing one’s perspective is an extremely valuable tool for comprehending the familiar.  Things that were once hidden in one view now became visible in another, offering a new perspective on a once familiar object or scene. Being innovative in thinking about trees enabled me to shift my perspective and imagine viewing them in a totally different view, one from above or within.  A few words from Wayne Dyer summarizes my project perfectly:

If you change the way you look at things
The things you look at change

© 2014, Joanne Scherf

So in this series, Aerial Arboretum: Changing Perspective!/portfolio/C0000vTXoT0.UTko/G0000ILYCLQGQH   I continued to capture trees from ground level, yet with the vision of creating an artful, aerial or internal perspective using post-production techniques that makes it appear as though one is viewing trees from above. The focus is now shifted from looking at trees from a typical parallel approach to one that provides an immersion experience from above where the viewer is surrounded by swirling arrangements and compositions primarily of stems, leaves, and branches.  Aerial Arboretum: Changing Perspective alters the reality and prevents letting only one view satisfy or limit curiosity.  As Henry David Thoreau once stated, “It’s not what you’re looking at that matters, it’s what you see.

To view the current collection in Arial Arboretum: Changing Perspective, go to:!/portfolio/C0000vTXoT0.UTko/G0000ILYCLQGQHhA.  Over time I will continue to add more trees to this collection in the hopes of presenting the familiar subject of trees in a new perspective, one of immersion and from within.