documentary photography shel rogers Clovis NM

This weekend we had a pretty crazy storm go through Clovis. Rain and hail thundered on the roof, although somehow my wee girl still slept through it. A ‘creek’ materialized behind my back yard, where only grass used to be. And the golf ball sized hail plopped loudly into the new creek and bounced high on the wet grass. Thankfully, we didn’t suffer any damage from the hail.

But, I was still annoyed with the storm. It had ‘messed up’ my plans for some evening documentary photography. My favorite time to shoot is just before the sun goes down. But the storm had chased the sun away. Sometimes I do go out even if it’s raining, but not when I have Evey in tow. Miraculously though, the rain and looming clouds cleared up just before sunset. So I snatched up my camera and hurried Evey into the car before the  light disappeared.

documentary photography shel rogers Clovis NM

Honestly I didn’t really know what I was driving around looking for. Most of the time I just mosey around Clovis until something catches my eye. But I couldn’t mosey this time. I was racing the sunset and the death of that beautiful golden light. I love some good back-lighting, so I took the streets in Clovis that could bring me towards the light, and the older parts of Clovis.

documentary photography shel rogers Clovis NM

It probably sound ridiculous to actual adrenaline junkies, but I get such exhilaration from racing the sunset. I know I’m not racing anyone to a finish line in the earning for some prize, but instead I’m competing against Mother Nature herself. I’ve been in photography long enough to know how fast the lighting changes, how the colors shift, and how the shadows creep. And the setting at each sunset is different, due to season, weather, or even our own building construction or destruction. My race is to document that fleeting moment of unique golden light, before it’s gone for good.

 

documentary photography shel rogers Clovis NM

documentary photography shel rogers Clovis NM

documentary photography shel rogers Clovis NM

documentary photography shel rogers Clovis NM

 

documentary photography shel rogers Clovis NM

I’ve been grappling a lot lately with what kind of photographer I am. People have been asking me more since I put up this blog, and a lot of times I’m just not sure what to say, or how to define my work. Documentary photographer is my go to, but sometimes I feel like it’s too vague.

I love photographing my daughter a ton. What parent doesn’t? I want to make sure I don’t forget anything. I love capturing her growing and changing stages. But does that make me a kids or family photographer? I’m not so sure.

And ever since I came across Eric Kim’s site, I fell in love with the idea of street photography. But does it count as street photography if I live in Clovis, NM, and not in a big city? Or if I take more pictures of the buildings and actual streets than people?

I honestly spend about as much time driving around photographing Clovis and the surrounding areas, as I do snapping pictures of my child. But I don’t live in a big city, like most street photographers do, and many of my favorite images from my adventures don’t necessarily include people. So where does that leave me?

I used to think that maybe it’s a flaw I have, not being able to categorize myself. Everyone does it, so why can’t I? I’m sure fitting more comfortably into a specific type of photographer would help me sell myself more, too. But the reality is that I just can’t bring myself to pigeon-hole my photography too much.

 

I think maybe it’s because I’m labeled in a hundred different ways each day, from single-mom to millennial and frankly, I’m tired of it. Photography is my creative outlet. It’s one of my favorite things that continually brings me joy, and allows me to express myself. And in order to do that, I need to feel free to photograph whatever the hell I want, without worrying if it fits with a specific label.

 

I think I just have to live with the broad term for my work: Documentary photography. For me, documentary photography means photographing the things around you as they are. And all the things I get the most joy from photographing are in a documentary capacity. When I photograph my daughter, it’s about documenting her childhood, so always remember. I absolutely love documenting the town I live in, and the quirky small town vibe that comes with the streets, buildings, and people of Clovis. I bring my camera just about everywhere with me so I can’t miss anything. It’s all about preserving the life around me, everything I love and find interesting, in photographs so I won’t forget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

documentary photographer clovis nm

So for my self moderated photography homework this week, my goal was not to crop my images. I want to be more intentional about my framing. Sometimes, I get so focused on one thing that I want to capture, that I forget everything else that shows up in the photo.

And if you shoot with the handicap of knowing you will crop later, it’s all to easy to get sloppier with composition. What if the thing you plan on cropping out later doesn’t work with your photo ratio? And if you have too much tunnel vision, and there are multiple things to crop out of the photograph, then there are even more things to work around.

All in all, it’s better just to get the framing right the first time. I want to make sure that before the shutter closes, the photo I’m taking works as a whole. Aside from helping me be a better photographer, this exercise also means less post-production. Which is always alright by me. I enjoy the taking of pictures, and documenting the things around me, more than the editing stage.

So this week, I did practice my no cropping rule. This rule also applied to the images of Evey’s very first haircut, which I documented earlier this week. However, in the spirit of not being repetitive, I wanted to post some images other than those from my previous post, without any cropping.

Sounds easy enough, right? Ehhhhhhh.

I really only have these three images to show for my homework. Honestly, I could say I didn’t get out to take pictures as much as I wanted to this week. I could also say there were other images that I did like, but as stand alone images, not as a group. But I felt that these three pictures turned out the best as is, and were a nice cohesive group. There’s a kind of moodiness I really like about them as a trio.

 

But to be honest, I also think I need to work harder on being intentional with my framing. I want good compositions to be an instinct, not an accident. So that I can document those fleeting wonderful moments in life in the best way I can. And in order for that to happen, I just have to keep on keeping on.

 

 

The images below are from an assignment I did a Documentary Photography Class, during my time at AAU. Enjoy!

Small Town Series. Fujifilm XT-1. 2015. Clovis NM.

 

 

documentary photographer clovis nm

When I started this blog, I knew I wanted to have a place to show my documentary photography, and post my images. A place that was all my own, that I could direct people to when asked about my photography. I forced myself to finally just start putting up content, because I knew that if I didn’t make myself start posting images, I would overthink the site into nothingness. So here I am.

 

However, over the course of the last week, I’ve really been thinking hard about what I want to do with this blog. Sure, I want a place to showcase my photography. But I also want more from this.

The photography I enjoy the most, is the kind that I do for me. I look for the things that interest me, things that I find compelling or beautiful. Usually with the hope that other people will find them interesting as well. But I try not to concern myself with that as much when I’m out exploring and taking pictures.

 

With that in mind, I wanted to figure out how to apply the same principle to this blog. I know myself well enough to know that if I don’t make this blog for me, at least as much as I can, posting here will become a chore versus a joy. And I can’t let that happen.

So, moving forward, I want to stick to having a few weekly posts that follow a theme. I already have my Feature Friday posts, but I am going to add at least one other weekly post: Photographer Feature or Self Help.

Essentially, my goal with these weekly posts is to make sure I keep learning and growing. I’m not in school anymore, so I don’t have the same kind of push I once did. I don’t receive weekly photography assignments specifically created to help me learn. It’s all up to me now.

 

So in the first weekly post, I will examine the work of one great photographer who inspires me. The best way to learn is from the masters, right? Well I think so anyway. They must have done something right in order to get where they are.

My other weekly post will consist of my own photography from personal assignments designed to ‘keep it (my work) fresh’. Like I said, I’m not in school. I don’t have a teacher to do this for me, so I need to do this myself. I need to do this to ensure my photography grows how I would like. And in order to do that, I need to make sure I keep shooting. Even if I don’t feel like it.

 

I really want this blog to be a place for exploration, growth, and creative expression. Yes, my motivation for setting up this structure is firstly for myself and my own growth. But I do hope that this blog could help provide or inspire that in others as well.

 

lifestyle photography clovis nm

Normally, I keep my camera with me wherever I go. You just never know what you may come across. But for some reason yesterday I took my camera out of my purse, and I definitely regretted it. I realized my mistake as I was pulling out of the drive, but I was already running late. Besides, it was just a routine doctors visit, what could I possibly need my camera for?

Doctors Visit. iPhone.

The lighting in the office was so wonderful, I just had to take a picture, even if it was with my phone. But I was so annoyed with myself for leaving my camera at home. After the appointment, I went and picked it up. I gave myself the assignment that for the rest of the day, if I saw something, anything that caught my eye, I would force myself to stop an take photo.

So please enjoy the photos from my favorite photos from the rest of the day. And learn my lesson: never leave your camera behind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lifestyle documentary photographer Clovis NM

Formation Flying with the Clovis Pilots Association. November 2016.

 

 

documentary photographer clovis nm

As a documentary photographer, I always try to have a camera on me when I’m out and about

You just never know what you might encounter. I’ve captured many of my favorite photos just because something caught my eye while I was driving around, and I simply had to pull over and take out my camera.

So here are some of my favorite photos I’ve gotten from doing just that. Randomly pulling over, taking pictures at the gas station, or whipping out my camera in a local coffee shop, like a nerd.

Anyone who is over the age of two years old can attest to the fact that life has a funny little way of not going exactly according to plan. And unfortunately for me, I am a planner. I just work best that way. So when my life inevitably doesn’t exactly mimic my carefully thought out plans, photography is there to help me work through it.

For example, when I first moved to Clovis, NM, I experienced an intense culture shock. I had never lived in the Southwest, a small town, or a remote location. I had never seen so many abandoned buildings before, and most of the stores, restaurants, and things to do that we were used to, were only available two hours away. As fans of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, my family quickly came up with our own version of a quote from the movie:

Well ain’t this place a geographical oddity! Two hours from everywhere!”

Let’s be real, moving is tough, Attempting to make friends as an adult is terrible. Or at least it was painful and awkward for me. Kids can just walk up to other children and declare that they’re friends now, but I feel like that’s generally frowned upon in grown-up society.

Documentary photography gave me a reason to explore more, meet new people, and generally get myself out of my very introverted shell.

I met quite a few talented photographers and other awesome Clovis creatives in my endeavors. Candice and Kristie are some of my favorite Clovis ladies, and I can’t even tell you how much I’ve learned from them, just by being lucky enough to hang out with them.

Through my photo adventures, I also learned to find the beauty and fun in a place I initially hated. I was seriously miserable when I first got here. But the photography carried me through. As a rule, I tend to take a lot more pictures when I’m having a hard time. And with all those pictures, the way I saw Clovis slowly changed. Remember all those abandoned buildings I thought looked so depressing when I first arrived? They definitely transformed into super interesting shooting locations.

In all honesty, documentary photography has kept me sane. It’s fun and I love it. I love having a creative outlet I can take wherever I go. It’s a way to make sure I don’t forget valuable memories and people. But, one of the most important things it’s provided me over the past few years, is that it has forced me out of my comfort zone, forced me to grow and learn, and helped me to see and appreciate the beauty in daily life, no matter where I am.

Documentary Photography saves the day.

Or at least, it has saved my days, over and over and over again.

Once upon a time, my very first DSLR was a Sony a77. And it did it’s job. But it was cumbersome, somewhat counter intuitive (in my opinion), and using it honestly just felt like a chore. I took the camera out when I had homework to do, or knew I should practice, but I didn’t love it, or use it anymore than I felt I should.

Insert the Fujifilm X100, which was released in 2010.

When I was researching good quality cameras that were more portable than my Sony DLSR, I came across the X100. I read the glowing reviews, and after a few months, I decided to purchase a used version and give it a shot.

I. Fell. In. Love.

Monkey Bars. June 2015.

The camera was 4 years old by the time I got it, at least three years older than my Sony A77. But there was no comparison between my Sony pictures and the images I created with my Fuji.

The Fujifilm X100 captured much more detail and produced much better quality images, especially in low light situations.

The fixed 35mm lens was fast and sharp, and it was so compact that I could easily take it everywhere with me! Which I definitely did.

I haven’t gone back since. I wanted to switch from my Sony A77 to the Fujifilm X-T1. However, the college I was attending had a strict ‘no mirror-less cameras’ policy. So what was a girl to do?

My solution was to write up a well-thought out essay on why the X-T1 was just as good as a DSLR, and why I had my heart so set on using it. And it worked! I was the first student at AAU allowed to use a mirror-less camera for classwork! Check it out below (it’s a copy of email traffic, so you have to read from the bottom up).

 

Anyway, the rest of history. My Fujifilm XT-1 has gone almost everywhere with me over the last three years.

ABQ Selfie. July 2016. Fujifilm XT-1.

I even loved Fujifilm so much I decided to try out the wide instant camera as well. It was instantly a winner in my book! (Get it…? Don’t judge me.)

I got my latest addition a few weeks ago and it’s been just as magical as that first purchase of the X100, the new X100F. It even looks just like the first one I got four years ago.

For documentary photography, I love my tiny awesome cameras.

And having a camera that I absolutely love helps inspire me, and has made a huge difference in my growth as a photographer. Which is why I will always be a Fujifilm fan girl 🖤