Color Story

I love color!  If you come to my house, you’ll see walls that are bright yellow, blue and red, turquoise kitchen cabinets, a green sunroom and lots of other colors sprinkled around to brighten things up.  I’ve always loved color, just ask my parents about the “primary colors and polka dot” decorating scheme that I used to decorate my junior high bedroom. (groan…)

This love of color definitely translates into my photography.  Like many photographers of a certain age, my first introduction to photography was in the black and white darkroom.  I stil love a good black and white print, and believe that making b&w images is a great way to refine an eye for composition. Hover, for me personally, I know that my photography became more of an expression of my personality when I embraced the creative use of color in my images.

Shadows on a yellow wall in Florence, Italy (Emily Naff)
Chance Encounter, Florence, Italy

So, it was an easy decision to enter my work for consideration into the current exhibit at The Darkroom Gallery in Essex Jct. Vermont.  The call for entries said  “If a confident use of color defines your work, we want to see it.”   The exhibit was juried by Seth Resnick, a highly respected photographer, digital imaging expert and fellow lover of color.  I was delighted to find out that two of the four images I entered were selected for the show, appropriately named Color Story.   Be sure to check out the other images that were selected for the show, and read Seth’s commentary on his process for selecting the images.  The show opens tonight (2/10/13) and will be up until March 3, 2013.

The images “Chance Encounter” and “Room with a View” are the two images that were selected.  These two images are part of a series on Italy, called “La Passeggiata.”  The images in the series are a sampling of my work from over 6 trips to Italy, in which I’ve explored Italy from the top to the bottom of the boot.

Room with a View, Martea, Italy (Emily Naff)
Room with a View, Martea, Italy

2012 in Review

Children playing at Winifred Beach, Jamaica. (Emily Naff)
Children playing at Winifred Beach, Jamaica. (Emily Naff)

Over this holiday break from teaching, I have been working to better integrate my blog and website.  I am also in the process of updating the galleries of images that are available on my website.  Images will now be available for instant image licensing for stock and editorial purposes, and print orders for fine art clients.  During this process, I have spent a lot of time scrolling through my images.  There are certain images that resonate with me for a variety of reasons, so I thought I’d test out the feature of embedding a slide show into the blog, and share this collection of images made in 2012.  These images are from the backroads of Tennessee to the backwaters of Brazil, the only thing binding them together into a collection is that they were all made in 2o12.  More galleries will be added soon.

I’m also using this as an opportunity to test out some of the features being used to better integrate my blog and website.  The goal is that viewers will not notice the difference between the two.  I’d love feedback on what is working or not working as you navigate between the blog and the website.

Traveler or Tourist?

Mayan ruins in Tikal, Guatemala
Mayan ruins in Tikal, Guatemala

The Mayan culture has been getting a lot of attention lately.  Especially yesterday, 12/21/12, the day that the Mayan calendar ended.  The end of this calendar has been interpreted in a variety of ways, but that’s not what I’m going to write about. All this attention to the Mayans has made me think of the two different encounters that I have had with the Mayan culture, and the contrast of travel experiences that I had on those very different trips.

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit 4 different locations with mayan ruins: Tikal, Copan, Chitchen Itza and Tulum. The first two sites were visited almost 20 years ago, when I spent 5 weeks backpacking in Guatemala in Honduras. The last two sites were day trips from an all-inclusive resort near Cancun about 6 years ago. Those two trips could not have been more different. The manner of travel and budget being the two biggest differences.

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.”  Paul Theroux

Chichicastenango, Guatemala. Santo Tomas Church during Holy Week.

The first trip to Guatemala and Honduras was on a budget of less than $15/day, including food and accommodation. I was 23, single and broke.   I stayed in cheap hotels, hostels, hammocks and slept on the deck of a boat.   I ate beans, rice, avocados and lots of liquados (fruit smoothies.) I also spent about 10 days studying spanish in Antiqua, Guatemala. On that trip I met a lot of people, other travelers and locals. I would sit in the park in Antiqua and strike up conversations with strangers so that I could practice spanish. I rode public transportation, and constantly had to ask people for directions and other forms of help. During that trip I was able to visit the ruins of Copan and Tikal, and several small towns and villages that were populated mostly by people of Mayan descent. In general, I felt like a traveler, not a tourist.

Fast forward about 12 years; I’m married with a full time job, and a comfortable income. My husband and I took a trip to Cancun that was an all-inclusive package deal. We could have everything we needed for a relaxing vacation without ever leaving the confines of our resort. My husband and I booked this trip last minute during a very busy period, and we didn’t have much time to plan or choose, we just knew we needed a vacation. We were met at the airport by a driver holding a sign with our name on it. We had a room with a view of the pool and the ocean beyond. There was drink service without leaving our beach chairs, maid service and meals on site. It wasn’t an expensive trip, when you consider that airfare, lodging and food were included. It wasn’t a luxurious resort, but it definitely wasn’t shabby either.  I venture a guess, that sounds like most peoples idea of a dream vacation, we hated it.  Yes, the beach was nice, the drinks were refreshing, the service was good, etc…  It was nice for about the first 36 hours, then we were bored out of our minds.  We might as well have been in Florida. What’s the point of leaving the country, if everything is the same as home?

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michner

Mayan ruins in Chichen Itza, Yucatan Peninsual, MexicoMayan ruins in Chichen Itza, Yucatan Peninsual, Mexico
Mayan ruins in Chichen Itza, Yucatan Peninsual, Mexico


My husband and I made the most of that trip, by renting a car and escaping the resort for a trip to Chitchen Itza and Tulum.  We also promised ourselves, “never again” to the easy allure of a package vacation. Those types of vacation deals are designed to keep the tourist away from the realities of the lives being lived around them. It’s hard to relax, when you’re face to face with the reality of the poverty of the people who are making your drinks and cleaning your rooms. Even more difficult, when you realize they’re probably barely making a living wage, and the money you are spending often goes to the big multi-national corporations.

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clifton Fadiman




So, how can we make the travel experience more authentic?  There are many options of ways to create travel experiences that allow you to interact with local culture, and allow your travel money to have a greater impact on the people you are meeting.  I believe very passionately in the idea of EcoTravel, which is a type of travel that does not damage the environment and helps to support local economies.  It is the idea that local communities can benefit from tourism, without the tourism ruining the environment and culture that made the location a destination in the first place.   There are a lot of ways that we can support these ideals.  Here are just a few:

Buying pineapples from a roadside vendor in Honduras.
Buying pineapples from a roadside vendor in Honduras.
  • Stay in small, family owned hotels or B&B’s.
  • Strike up a relationship with the people who work there.  Go out of your way to talk to them beyond the scope of “I need a towel, or a key”, etc..
  • Study the language, so that these types of interactions are easier.
  • Rent an apartment with a kitchenette, which requires that you…
  • Shop for groceries at the local market or corner store.
  • Eat at the locally owned restaurants, and avoid the fast food chains.
  • Participate in an educational program.
  • Be respectful of the differences in the culture.

Remember: “There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Wordless Wednesday

Dreaming of Rio
Dreaming of Rio

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RIP: Oscar Niemeyer

Niterói Contemporary Art Museum
Niterói Contemporary Art Museum

Humanity needs dreams to be able to survive the miseries of daily existence, if even if only for a minute.” – Oscar Niemeyer

Niterói Contemporary Art Museum
Niterói Contemporary Art Museum

Brazilian Architect Oscar Niemeyer died today at the age of 104.   I was lucky enough to see several of his works of Art while in Brazil this past summer.

Niterói Contemporary Art Museum
Niterói Contemporary Art Museum
Niterói Contemporary Art Museum
Niterói Contemporary Art Museum
Abandoned hotel in Sao Conrado designed by Niteroi.
Abandoned hotel in Sao Conrado designed by Niteroi.

Wordless Wednesday

This little boy makes me smile every time I see this picture in my catalog.

Wordless Wednesday

Shifting sands of Jericoacoara, Brazil

Wordless Wednesday

I just discovered a trend in blogging that might help me do a better job of updating my blog on a regular basis.  It is called Wordless Wednesday.  It involves posting a picture that speaks for itself.  No descriptions or captions needed.   This cuts down on the pressure to write, and keeps the focus on the images themselves.

So, all I will tell you about this picture is the location: Amazonas, Brazil.

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Editing Part 3: Narrowing down the Choices

This is my final choice from the edit of this series of shots.

The phases of editing may be different for different projects and different people.  I’m very deadline driven, and since I have no hard deadline on editing the pictures from Brazil, I admit to letting other aspects of my life take over.  I also find that part of my process, is to take a break from the images and let them “marinate” in my mind.  I might visit them from time to time to flip through them,  and  add some keywords and captions or rate a few images higher or lower than my initial rating.   When I find myself thinking about certain images at random moments, then I know that those have some quality that has resonated with me.

The images shown here were taken at a Quadrilha Dance Competition at the Mercado dos Pinhoes in Fortaleza, Brazil.  The best translation I can find for Quadrilha is “square dance.”  Like square dances in the US, there is someone calling out the moves, although for these performances, I’m sure they were choreographed.  This series of images are ones that have stuck with me. Maybe it’s the colors, maybe it’s the movement, maybe it was the event itself, I’m not sure, but I do know that these have become my favorite images from my time in Brazil. (Hover your mouse over the images to see them larger, or click on any of the images to go a gallery.)

I was entranced by the color and movement of the dancers dresses. It was a sea of color, I shot several images from this point of view, working with different shutter speeds and framing to capture the essence of the energy of the dancers.  These three frames were taken within seconds of each other, and I’ve been trying to decide which is “the one” that will be the final edit.  I spent some time going back and forth on my opinion, but after printing some proof prints, I decided on the large image featured at the top of blog. The differences are subtle, so what is it about this image that makes it my choice?  For me, it’s the line of the dancer’s body, and shape made by the swirl of the dress.  I also like how the one embroidered flower is just a little bit sharper than the other flowers. The flower acts as a focal point, drawing the eye to the sharpest point in the frame, then the lines of the dancers arm, and the ruffle of the dress lead the viewers eye around to the rest of the image.

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The Process of Editing Images

I’m like a bee or bird, always attracted to bright and contrasting colors. The repetition of red elements against the blue sea and sky is what drew my eye to this scene.

When I travel, I take a lot of images.  I find that I average about 1,200 to 1,500 a week when I’m on the road.  That means a lot of images to edit.  That also means a lot of images that may not deserve a second look, so I thought I’d explain the process that I’m going through right now as a I edit my images.  I’d love feedback about any of the images, or feedback from other photographers who have a different editing process.  I’m including a few random images that I flagged during the intial pass of the first week’s images.

On the Road: Download and backup images.  I use Adobe Lightroom to download and edit images.  I create a catalog on my laptop just for that trip, which I’ll later integrate into my main catalog.  At this point, I go ahead and keyword with locations, so I don’t have to worry about remembering the names of places visited.

Beira Mar at Sunset, Fortaleza, Brazil.

I may go ahead an flag images that I really like at this time, but I usually don’t spend a lot of time editing pictures.  I’d rather be out shooting, than sitting in front of my laptop in a hotel room.

Backup:  If you read my previous post, you know how important it is to back up your files.  I back up to an external hard drive, using Super Duper.   There are tons of great software programs out there to help with back ups, I recommend using one that you can schedule to run automatically, so that your back up is reliant on you remembering to run it.   I also make sure when traveling that my laptop and backup hard drive are in separate carry-on bags.

Home Sweet Home:  Honestly,  when first getting home after a long trip, I usually don’t want spend a lot of time with my images.  I have a lot of life to catch up on.  I need to spend time seeing friends and family, playing with the dog, doing laundry, catching up on sleep, mail, life in general…. you get the idea.   But then there is also the impatient part of me, that’s ready to start looking, sorting and editing.

Vendors selling fresh coconuts are always out along the beach. Aqua de Coco is especially refreshing on a hot day at the beach.

I start by copying the files onto my main computer.  I organize my images into folders by country, and then sub-folders for city or region, within the city folder they are in folders by date the image was taken.

Editing: Lightroom has a lot of tools to help photographers organize images.  Since I’ve switched to Lightroom, my images are better organized, and easier to find.  The first thing I do as I go through the images is to “flag” or “reject” them.   I “flag” ones I want to come back to later and “reject” the total failures (out of focus, bad exposure, accidental shots.)    Ones I really like I will also rate with 3 or 4 stars, but I usually wait to rate them until the second look.  Flagging and rating images is very helpful, because I can later sort the images so that all I see are the flagged images, or the 3 star images.

Foot Volley is a cross between soccer and volley ball, and is a common game played on the beaches of Brazil.

That’s also helpful when your friend comes over and says, can I see your shots?  and you don’t want to show all 6,000 images! (and I’m sure they don’t want to see them!)
So, that’s where I am now.  I’ve sorted through the first 3,500 images and have flagged less than 800 for a second look.  While doing that I also put a few into “A Collection” for sharing on the blog.  I’ve picked a few from that collection to show here.  These are some of my first impressions of Fortaleza.