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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Editing Part 2: Is it a keeper?

Sunrise and reflections on the beach at Jericoacoara, Brazil.

In the previous post, I discussed my process for editing images.  During the first pass over a group of images, I either flag, reject or ignore a photo.  The flagged photos are the ones that I want to come back to again.  The photos that I ignore are the ones that make me go “eh,”  as they are neither “good” nor “bad” in my opinion.  The images that get rejected are the ones I don’t want to see again, these are the accidental shots, the out of focus shots, and the terrible exposure shots.  Often those images, are the first in the sequence of working toward the shot that I really want.  For example, when shooting creative motion, I often have to experiment to get the right shutter speed for the motion of the subject.  If I “reject” the ones that just didn’t work, then I can filter them out, so that I don’t have to see them again.

So, what are the qualities that I look for when deciding which are good, or at least are worth a second look?  Listed below are a few of the key points that I consider when critiquing images during the first edit. By no means is this list totally inclusive, but it will give you an idea of the questions I consider when making the first pass of images.

Shadows of a nearby roof are cast on this old wall and yellow door in Paraty, Brazil.
  • Light: Interesting lighting can provide the opportunity to turn an ordinary subject into an interesting photograph.  On the other extreme, dull lighting can make a boring photograph of an interesting subject.

    The steps of Lapa created by artist Selaron. The steps have been a work in progress since 1990, when the artist began covering them with tiles from all over the world.
  • Interesting subject: An interesting subject doesn’t necessarily make an good photo, but it’s a good place to start.  Is the subject of the photograph obvious? Have I successfully communicated to the viewer what I want them to see? Have I found a unique perspective on the subject?
  • Composition:  Does the composition of the image help draw the viewers eye to the subject, or does it successfully move the viewers gaze around the photograph?  Is there a strong focal point?Are there distracting elements that compete with the subject, if so can the image be cropped to remove the distractions?

    Vendor at the Fortaleza fish market is showing off the shrimp for sale.
  • Focus:  Is the main part of the subject sharp?  If the image has selective focus, is the part that is sharp important? If the image is not sharp, is the blur intentional and creative?
  • Exposure: Is the image properly exposed?  Are there details in the highlights and shadows?  If I’m unsure, I’ll look at the histogram, and maybe open it up in the develop module to make sure the information is there to work with.  If the exposure is not technically “perfect” does the exposure enhance the mood or feeling of the image?