Saturday, November 14, 2015

Let the Holidays Begin

Reindeer Embroidered Pillow was inspired by the work of Helene Lundberg's Scandinavian Christmas Crafts. It is hand embroidered and embellished by me. Tassels are handmade. The small pillow is crafted from eco-felt, and features a bright red back. I love the simplicity of the design.

The challenge wasn't in the creating of the pillow, but in the photographing of it. The white of the front tended towards overexposure. I ultimately used a dark background and moved my set-up into the porch where there was filtered, natural light. You'll notice the different lighting conditions in the photos below, and the ways in which the lighting impacts the color.

Needle and Beads, copyright 2015, Stephanie Maatta Smith

Stitched Together, copyright 2015, Stephanie Maatta Smith

If you're looking for unique holiday gift ideas, be sure to check out my Etsy shop. Along with photography, I am an avid crafter. This pillow is currently available for purchase. Additional handcrafted items will be added throughout the holiday season.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

New Products on Etsy

etsy logo designed by Amy BoothI've added Artist Cards Editions and Originals to my Etsy shop. ACEOs are small pieces of art and photography. They are also known as ATC's (Artist Trading Cards). Each card measures 2.5 x 3.5 inches, and is signed, dated and numbered on the back by the artist. They are a great way to collect or give little, affordable works of art.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Autumn Photography

trees in autumn
Autumn Colors, copyright 2014, Stephanie Maatta Smith
Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.

The summer sun is faint on them --
The summer flowers depart –

From Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “The Autumn”

I love making images in the autumn, especially during the month of October. The light is beautiful and colors are spectacular. The crisp, fall air (at least in the north and upper Midwest) adds something magical to outdoor photography. With less humidity, the sky seems clean and bright.

pond with bridge in the fall
Autumn Pond, copyright 2014, Stephanie Maatta Smith
In the Midwest where the weather is brisk, autumn is not a subtle season. The color of the leaves cast a bright golden orange glow before they drop to the ground, curling upon themselves and blowing away. Decorations of mums and pumpkins appear on doorsteps and porches.

image of pink grasses entwined with native wildflowers
Native Grasses & Wildflowers, copyright 2015, Stephanie Maatta Smith
In central Florida, however, autumn slips in quietly and less obviously. Air is lighter, and wildflowers begin blooming in earnest. Wild grasses we hardly notice in summer turn a brilliant pink, and migrating birds begin to appear from the north.

For me, it’s time to pull on the hiking shoes, grab the camera and binoculars, and head to a state park or preserve to capture some of the autumn offerings. We put in 5 miles on hiking trails last week, and plan to put on 5 more miles this coming weekend.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Art Show Prep

One of my goals this year was to exhibit some of my photography in art shows, and two pieces were accepted this summer (one juried exhibit, one member show). I've also decided to participate in a couple of arts/crafts festivals, mostly just for fun. However, this requires some prep work to get pieces ready. After having one piece professionally framed (way expensive), I'm attempting a more economical route, doing my own matting and semi-framing.

This adventure began by ordering my images from one of two labs – NationsPhoto Lab and Shutterfly. Both produced high quality prints, delivered quickly, and at a very reasonable cost. From the advice I read on other websites and blogs, I made sure to order my prints in standard sizes to fit pre-cut mats and frames (4x6, 5x7, 8x10, 11x14, and a few square images).

Ready to Mat, copyright 2015, Stephanie Maatta
Cutting my own mats isn’t an option with the learning curve and trying to prep a larger quantity of pieces in a limited amount of time. For economy I ordered pre-cut mat packages from Amazon that include mat, backing border, and a sealable bag. The first thing I learned was to make sure the clear bags had the sticky seal on the bag below the opening rather than on the flap; otherwise the bag sticks to the image or mat as it’s being inserted. What a challenge!

Placing the Tape, copyright 2015, Stephanie Maatta
I hinged the mat and backing together using linen hinging tape. For ease and less mess, the self-adhesive variety worked well for my purposes. A narrow piece of hinging tape was used to hold the photo in place on the mat. Most of the items for the arts/crafts shows will be unframed, but matted in either basic white or black mats, and kept in crystal clear bags to protect the items from smudges and handling.

Framing was another adventure. Again, economy was the major factor in my choices. I was self-framing a square image. The exhibit required all photographic entries to be framed with a white mat and standard glass. The exhibit was also very specific about the hanging requirements – picture wire placed approximately 1/3 of the way down the edge of the frame and at least 1-½ inches below the top of the frame. I found exactly what I needed online in a smooth, black wood frame; alas no hanging wire.

Hole Placement, copyright 2015, Stephanie Maatta
Useful Tools, copyright 2015, Stephanie Maatta
Using a little ingenuity, I found the hole alignment guide we used for installing knobs on our bathroom cabinets. The guide has holes placed at various heights and widths, and worked perfectly for positioning the D-rings on the back of the frame. The other tools used were basic household items we have on hand, including wire cutters, screwdrivers, and a light duty hammer. After watching a couple of picture wiring videos on YouTube, I was able to determine how to bend and wrap the picture wire for secure hanging.

Ready to Go, copyright 2015, Stephanie Maatta
Overall, I’m please with my efforts. So far I have 25 images matted and ready. The next challenge will be finding tables and displays for the arts/crafts festivals. Looks like I’ll be making a few investments along with paying entry fees. My first festival participation is the Palma Sola Botanical Park Annual Plants & Crafts sale on October 17th. Stop by and see me.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Fibonacci Sequence, Divine Composition or The Golden Ratio

three yellow sunflowers on a white background
Sunflower Bright, copyright 2015, Stephanie Maatta Smith
Recently I had the pleasure of participating in a local artists’ challenge. While the subject of the challenge was “sun flower” and our artistic interpretations of this subject, the discussion began with Fibonacci Sequence, or the Golden Ratio. This is, of course, a foundational concept of artistic composition, and one that occurs naturally in nature.

Without going into a long explanation the Fibonacci sequence is a mathematical sequence that forms a spiral as the numbers become larger and are combined into squares. (Here’s a link to a quick and easy explanation of the math.) The start of the sequence is 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13; the sequence develops by adding succeeding numbers together (0+1 = 1; 1+1 = 2; 2+1 = 3 and so on). What’s even more intriguing is the aspect of ratio in the sequence, with each pair of successive numbers having the same approximate ratio of 1:1.61.

looking down the lighthouse stairs, showing the spiral staircase
Ponce Lighthouse Stairs, copyright 2012, Stephanie Maatta Smith
The Golden Ratio is sometimes considered a "souped up version" of the Rule of Thirds. Ah, yes, we all nodded our heads sagely; we’ve heard of the Rule of Thirds. Using the rule of thirds, the artist or photographer creates an image by imagining a 3 x 3 grid overlaid on the frame and positioning the subject carefully on one of the intersecting lines; thus, drawing the viewer into the image and leading him or her to the subject. By employing the Golden Ratio of 1:1.61 and envisioning the resulting spiral in conjunction with the Rule of Thirds, creative works become harmonious and pleasing to the eye.  It’s the foundational principal that makes a work of art, photography, and architecture feel right and all visual elements in proportion to each other.

center of a daisy
Daisy Central, copyright 2014, Stephanie Maatta Smith
The spiral and corresponding mathematical sequence are seen repeatedly in nature. For example, the seed heads of a sunflower are formed in outward reaching spirals with the seeds becoming larger as they reach to outer edge. The same pattern is seen in the carpel and stamen of a daisy. In nature, this design not only looks pleasing, but also serves a purpose. Seeds, petals, leaves grow in this pattern to give stability to the plant structure and to allow all of the leaves and seeds to receive light and water, ensuring growth and reproduction.

For more on the Fibonacci sequence and Golden Ratio in photography, check out this Digital Photography School article.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Official Launch Day!

deep pink rose on black background
Deep Pink, 2015, Stephanie Maatta Smith
I’ve decided to step up from the hobby level to officially hanging out my shingle. Today I am officially launching my website: My love is nature photography, but my services include product photography, especially for handcrafters, artisans, and quilters, and private instruction at the beginner/intermediate level. Please check out my website and pass it along to anyone who may need photos for their website, arts/crafts exhibits and competitions, or for an Etsy or other online storefront. Some of my photographs are for sale on my website as well as through other resources.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Working Life of Bees

Publication release day for my first self-published photo essay. Check out "Working Life of Bees: A Photo Essay" on Amazon. The photo essay explores the working life of bees and other pollinators through nature photography. Full color images show a variety of bees in orchards and gardens, and the likely places they can be found. The photos are accompanied by information about creating pollinator friendly spaces and gardens. Limited edition prints from the book are available for purchase on The Quiet Image website.