A Novel Idea – Part I

Life is a novel that is written as we go. We add to the pages each and everyday. Over time, eventually, gradually, it becomes the story of us, who we are, what we’ve done, and what we are yet to do.  We are a piece of history, each of us contribute to the legacy. In a sense a new novel is redundant to say, being that the word novel actually means new. For me as of right now it is applicable being that I am now writing a new novel. I am entering into something that is quite new, a new beginning, a new start. Unlike adding a new chapter to an old book. I am starting a new book with a new title, a novel idea.

PLC Panel

An Instrumentation Panel that I designed and fabricated. In a sense, my art.

My last day at a company I worked at for over 10.5 years came on June 30, 2014. I walked in, was escorted by security, signed a paper, said a couple goodbyes, and that was about it. For me saying goodbye wasn’t the part that mattered to me. The events that occurred from the day I was hired up to my last day are what truly mattered. The people I met and the things I learned along the way are what are valuable to me. Many will be my friends for life, we were a family. We worked together, we set goals together, we struggled, we conquered, and we lost together. We shared our lives with each other. In the end, the company we worked hard to build was sold. All the things we did together to create a business that had meaning and purpose was taken from us and given to someone else who knew nothing about what we did to make it what it was. Sure they read the newspaper articles and had all the documentation, but they did not feel what we felt. At the end of the day, that is what matters. What do you feel? Is it purposeful, does it have meaning? Are you making a difference? Are you happy? The last couple of years the answer to each of those questions was a resounding no!

The Passage

The passageways of my former life.

In the last quarter of 2008 we went through a very large reduction in force. My good friend and boss Dan Cooper was also let go during this lay off. It was a very disappointing and difficult day for many of us. We were reminded how vulnerable we were and how quickly life can change. This became a pivotal moment in time.  After Dan left I had to work for people at the company who really did not know me, they did not know where I came from, they did not watch me grow the way Dan did. Dan and I started our relationship in 1990. We met during Navy Electronics school in Orlando, Florida. So we have a pretty solid history of working together that is very unique and personal. My new bosses did not even know me, at all. They did not know my capabilities. Likewise with my fellow co-workers, who found themselves in a similar situation. The people that hired us were gone. The slate was wiped clean. Our new bosses did not know us, they were forced to take us on, and to no real fault of their own did not have the same appreciation for us as those who hired us. Sure they asked us questions and walked around and looked at what we did, but they knew nothing about us. Our value diminished day-by-day. Within a couple years we learned quickly that we were being prepped for a take-over by a much larger international corporation. Morale was at a all time low and our day-to-day activities were few due to the many changes. Very few projects were taken on. My work in particular revolved around projects, expansion, and growth. As an Instrumentation & Controls Engineer for the company I got to do some really cool stuff! Much of what I did, few understood or cared to understand, they just knew I did it. They let me do what I needed to do as I saw fit as it applied to the needs of the company. Again it was largely in part due to my original boss knowing me and knowing my capabilities. He trusted me and that trust built confidence.  I took on responsibilities that were typically sent to outside vendors and contracted out. I saw a need and I saw that it could be done better. Whenever and wherever possible I applied my creativity to my job, in that environment it was my art. It kept my mind and my hands busy. When all of that began to change, it became very difficult to get up in the morning and go into work. It was torture being there.

Fortunately over the last year or so I was given certain liberties to work on my next career move. Being that my next career move was much different than other’s this meant spending considerable time on social media, networking and branding myself. So what exactly is my next career move? Here is where one book ends and my novel idea begins. (to be continued in Part II)

 

Vernon Finney

 

The Creator by Vernon Finney

“The Creator” An intricately intensely detailed masterpiece depicting creation and the amazing power of the mind.

 

It has been a little over a year since I first saw the work of Vernon Finney. Giclee prints of some his paintings were hanging near some of my photographs in the Incredible Artist Art Gallery located in Cathedral City, California in the Palm Springs area.

Vernon Finney

Vernon signing a printed copy/pamphlet of “The Seven Days Of Creation” a seven piece painting depicted the first chapters of the book of Genesis.

The Starmaker by Vernon Finney

“The Starmaker” an amazing painting depicting the creation of the universe.

Vernon’s art stands out sharply from everyone else’s art, as good art should. I’m no great art expert. I did not study art. I took a few art classes. However I am privileged to have seen first hand the works of Michelangelo, Monet, and many others. Walking where Michelangelo walked doesn’t make me anything special. However, regardless, every now and again we get the opportunity to cross paths with people that are not part of the mainstream crowd. In my opinion these things happen for a reason and have significant purpose. When you meet them you instantly know they are something special, you know they are a gift and are gifted, and you want to absorb as much of them as possible. Vernon Finney is one of those people. A modern day, living breathing Rene Magritte, a friend who is a Salvador Dali. Though I did not meet any of the great artists of the day, I am happy to say that I have met Vernon Finney and I am very content with that. Vernon celebrated his 90th birthday in May of this year. Much of his 90 years has been packed full of adventure and loving life. Whether climbing some of the highest mountains, painting celebrities homes, running the art department in a leading advertising agency or creating amazing masterpieces of art. He was always up to the challenge. Though he drew and sketched most of his life.  In the 60’s Vernon began sketching and drawing in a manner that stood out from everyone else. He found his groove sort-of-speak. It was the 60’s after all. I sat down and pored over several of his worn out tattered sketch books from that period. So many ideas. So enlightened.  He was ahead of his time, with the open mindedness and the ideas that he expressed freely. Ahead of his time in a way that people just were not ready for his style of art, the good thing is he did not let any of that stop him. He is bothered very little if any at all by what other people think. Today the world needs the art of Vernon and it is finally ready. We need something that grabs a hold and pops and is original! His paintings are as original as original gets. Vernon grew up poor in Oklahoma. Coming from a conservative family, he wasn’t allowed to freely express his creativity. Today Vernon believes in “Just get out there and do it, don’t worry about it.” He believes in creating and freeing the mind and doing that often. I told him “I don’t want to be the best, I just want to be better. I don’t ever want to be in a place where I think I am the best.” He replied quickly, “Don’t worry about that, you become better by doing. As long as you are doing, you will get better and the rest will all fall into place.” I believe what he said is very true and I will do my best to practice that philosophy.

Reach by Vernon Finney

“Reach” in its full glory. An epic work of art that speaks volumes without capturing a single facial expression. Must be seen to comprehend this enormous wonderful work of art!

I stayed at Vernon’s, Cathedral City home for three days in late June and was given the opportunity of a lifetime. Spending time with the master was a privilege of epic proportions. We went shopping together, ate at an Italian and Mexican restaurant, and he cooked dinner for me. We even went to see Maleficent in 3D at the Mary Pickford Theater! Yes, we had a very good time indeed. Best of all we talked! We found common ground. He gave me advice and also reinforced what I already know and what I am already practicing. The several things that we spoke on that I would like to pass on to everyone who reads this is 1. Believe In Yourself! 2. Get rid of fear! 3. Get out there and do it! 4. Don’t LOOK back!! 5. Don’t Give Up!!!

Vernon_Finney_Drawing_SM

Sketches for Vernon’s latest work titled “Who’s Afraid Of Mary Jane?” A piece that will cast a light upon female injustice and affliction.

Vernon started painting full time around the age of  5o. He came to the place in his life where he felt that it was time to do what he was passionate about. In his lifetime he has painted over 400 oil paintings. Some he was commissioned to create, others he sold, and some he gave away. Some have been lost and he is trying to recover them. Several pieces are being looked at to go to either private collections or to hang in major galleries throughout the country. Up until my recent visit I had not seen any of Vernon’s original paintings. I have now seen over 30 of them. I have my favorites: Memories, Reach, and The Creator. Many of these took several years to paint. Reach took about 4 years to create, it is a huge painting 10′ x 9′, that’s 90 square feet! Many of his paintings are big. Bigger than life! This way it gets the message across, it has more impact. The great artists did the same thing. Vernon’s work can be considered thought provoking, surreal, and controversial. He is a modern day surrealist painter, when you see his work it will leave an indelible mark upon the thought processes of your mind!! Meet the man as I have and you will forever be changed. My short blog doesn’t do him justice. Keep an eye on Vernon Finney he is the next big thing! I look forward to hanging out some more with my new friend!

Back Alley Retreat

The Offspring – Gotta Get Away

It was a “I’m not feeling it” kind of day. Not knowing where to go. Still I needed to get out and shoot. There were several types of shots I needed and still need. Images with raw emotion, stock images, and landscape. Doing all of that in one trip is a big task. Still I didn’t know what it was exactly I wanted to do. Forcing it produces crap. So I opted for emotion and some possible stock images and headed to Ocean Beach in San Diego, California.

First off I grabbed a couple of slices and an IPA at the Newport Pizza and Ale House on Newport Avenue. Great pizza, like Wow good! Now that I had the mojo I needed, I was ready to go. After walking around for a few I ducked into the alley behind HodBack Alley Retreatad’s and right then out comes this guy. What was an already gritty and grungy scene becomes one filled with the raw emotion I was looking for. It was obvious there was a lot on his mind. So I didn’t want to bother him too much. I asked to get his picture as he was, looking down, hands together and he agreed. Now the question is, will it come out as I see it in my mind? I think it did, it speaks to everything I wanted it to.

This whole scene spoke to me about our life. How there are times we need to get away. The pressures that weigh us down and try to bend us and make us buckle. It seems that there is always perpetually someone breathing down our necks for something. Sometimes we just need to check out, breathe deep, and recharge. The struggles we face can either break us or build us into someone stronger. Even if all we have is a back alley it can be a retreat from the crud that we are bombarded with.

This is a #lyricallyinspired post.

A Moment In Time

From the beautiful shores of  La Jolla, California.

Scarlet Fever

I noticed the skies were cooperating as far as clouds are concerned. So as always I hoped for a great sunset. From October to January we had some amazing sunsets here in San Diego. I missed almost all of them for various reasons. I got to watch several of the photographers I follow post them on social media. Lots of great photos, none of them mine. That’s how it goes sometimes.

In early February I went out to the tide pool covered shores in La Jolla and finally got my opportunity. It was a Tuesday so fortunately no one was down there to get into my shot for my 4+ hour shoot. I used the AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 ultra wide lens to capture this. So it doesn’t take much for something other than the intended composition to enter into the frame. It’s often a game of patience; a plane, person, bird, something in the frame not intended. Some things can be cloned out in post process. I would rather not, it goes against my original intentions. I’m not against cloning by any means, I would just rather it be right when created.

It was a perfect evening from pre-sunset all the way to post. Every stage was unique and different and had its own color and detail scheme. It was multiple special moments in time. At one point the clouds looked like feathers as if a young bird was first taking flight and lost it’s first feathers and scattered them across the sky. As the sun dropped low beyond the horizon the sky turned to crimson. Then ultimately finished out in a deep purple. Collectively a moment that will never reoccur.

While I was standing there, as time stood still, completely lost in the peace and beauty of it all. The world around me continued to change and all that life throws at us the amazing, the crazy, the good, the bad, and all the crap we don’t want to talk about still happened right behind me. For me, the contents of this photo, this is reality. The rest of  it we create, it is our doing, so we need to create good stuff every moment we can.

Art In The Eye

The age old adage is “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” which has been modified by some to be “Art is in the eye of the beholder.” Which I suppose is partially accurate. More on the true side of things if a piece is for sale and the artist truly wants to make a sale. Less true if it is solely art.

Art for me is, “An expression of that which is within us! It is a release of energy from the soul that expresses itself and manifests itself into what we call art.”

This Is Art!!!

This Is Art!!!

What that means is,  it doesn’t need to be pretty, acceptable, perfect, correct, easy on the eyes, within the guidelines, categorized, likable, or desirable. It can be all those things, but it will unlikely be all those things or any of those things for everyone. So if only two people like a piece of art, how different is it
if two million people like a piece of art? Is it any less art? Maybe it is more of an art form because it has more critics than those that like it.

The saying should really read, “Art is art in the eye of the artist and not the beholder.”  It is the artist who made it art because it is an expression of themselves and the manifestation of that which is within them.

We will always have the critics which means we will always have art, they go hand-in-hand.  There will always be those who enjoy pointing out the obvious. Maybe the photograph I posted somewhere was out-of-focus, or under exposed, or over exposed, or whatever. As if it were a complete blunder on my part to publicly display something so horrendous. In the end it just makes me laugh, maybe not totally out loud, but at least I smile. The reason I can do that is because it is an expression of myself and nobody else. Yes, I intended it to be that way. Why? Because, the rules and boundaries do not need to always apply. They can and will be bent and broken.

Socially Speaking About Social Media

Sun Dog

A sun dog and the setting sun in La Jolla, California.

Over the past several years I have spent a great deal of time on the various social media platforms marketing my work and promoting myself. Up to the beginning of this year my main focus and strategy was to reach my audience through Facebook. I spent a great deal of time posting and advertising there. Up until about a year ago it was a good experience for me. The interaction was decent, not great, but I really did not have anything to compare it too. I did begin to realize that my following and interaction were not very well matched. Those that saw my posts averaged around 10-12% of my page Likes, which is called reach. Then only 10% of my reach interacted in some manner with the post.  I also paid to reach a specific audience, in particular the San Diego metro area. I made the assumption that people who related to my work would be more likely to interact with my posts. Some actually did, but I do not believe that most of my followers even saw my posts in their feed. I even tried promoting a few of my posts from time to time to increase the exposure with little to no results. I also noticed that many of my new Likes were not coming from my targeted market but were coming from areas out of the country.

A little over a year ago I joined Google +  as a result of following Trey Ratcliff at Stuck In Customs a really great photographer who has created quite a few video hangouts on Google +. As I watched the hangouts, Trey and the other photographers would talk about circles, tagging, and etc. I paid little attention at first then eventually bit-the-bullet and I set up an account. At first I really didn’t get it and I thought it was just another social media site with its own unique spin on the same ol’ thing. Never-the-less I did post to Google + regularly as I posted to Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter at the same time.

Over the course of this past year time frame I became more and more frustrated with the results of Facebook. I also saw other people posting and blogging similar frustrations and I could totally relate to their experiences. In the latter part of 2013 I began to shift my focus from Facebook to Google +. As my focus changed so did my results. I began to get noticed on Google + and the people there were far more engaging than my previous social media experiences. I began to create relationships with other artists and businesses. Some of which I truly believe will develop into life long friendships. I know it sounds to good to be true, but it is reality.

I’m not writing this to promote one brand over the other. I just know what is working well for me at this point in time. This is about my personal experience and journey from one place to another. So if you were sitting there wondering, “Where has Paul been lately?” well now you know where to find me. If you would like to see more of my work please come find me at Paul Koester On Google + or at my business page at Paul W. Koester Photography.

That Looks Photoshopped!

There are an aweful lot of Photoshop police cruising and lurking behind the scenes. On Facebook there are plenty of concerned people that feel the need to blurt out “That looks photoshopped!!”. OMG sound the alarms!! I imagine their faces all crumpled with disgust. It really is nothing to get so steamy about.

Photoshop seems to get all the credit when there are quite a few different software solutions for post-editing photos for creating dramatic to subtle effects. I personally utilize Adobe Photoshop CS6 and the Topaz suite of products along with Adobe Lightroom 4 and Photomatix. So the question is was it Photoshopped? Or was it really Picassa’d or GIMP’d, only the experts know.

Rose

This image has been Photoshopped. Photo by Paul W. Koester

When I look at a photo I could maybe guess at what the creator performed as far as post editing. Somethings are more than obvious, however my eye could not identify the software or lack thereof utilized for photo manipulation (manipulation sounds so harsh).

So here is a little bit of a step back and “let’s take a moment and analyze this mindset” for the critics. First of all there is all sorts of editing, or means to manipulate a photo outside of the software world. Ansel Adams did not have the opportunity to utilize today’s technology so to use him as an example is not exactly fair. Or is it? Ansel Adams is a great artist I think we can all agree with that. Great artists think outside the box. I have a hard time believing that when Mr. Adams created a photo he ever said “straight out of the camera, that is as good as it gets”. Straight out of the camera for Ansel would have produced a bunch of crapola! Here’s where a huge amount of  post editing comes into play for the anti-Photoshop person. Development…Exposure, dodging, burning, cropping, chemicals, lighting, duration, and etc. All of which have a direct affect and effect on the final product. Each step is a variable in the process that significantly manipulates the outcome. Nothing is truly straight out of camera (really can I say that?).

Let’s talk camera then. Your camera has a direct affect on the outcome of the photo. Shutter speed, ISO, aperture, focal length, exposure, lens, make of camera, sensor size, and etc. The way you set your camera up to take a photo may be very different than mine. Your directly out of camera look might be great, mine might need some tweaking. However the point is we have photo manipulation the moment we started. The photo is directly affected by what we choose as camera settings.

Lighting, filtering, screens, reflectors, flash, and etc. Are all methods of photo manipulation that have been used to create photos since the beginning days of photography. Whether you use a tree to screen the light or use a lake to add light, somehow-someway we all use these tools to edit the photo.

As an artist I naturally like art and appreciate other’s art. I may not necessarily like someone’s style however as an artist I know what goes into making a piece. The passion, the desire, the effort, the hours, the pain and ultimately the enjoyment that comes from a finished piece. Tools are tools, whether it is tangible or whether it is software. Whatever it takes to create a work, is okay. When it comes to art there are No Limits and No Rules. There are No Negatives. Photoshop or do not Photoshop it is all okay.

In today’s digital age it is pretty difficult to get away with not using some form of software to manage photos. So to say that something is “Photoshopped” has gotten to the point where it is really quite weird to say it.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

When I first heard about Sioux Falls I was pretty excited to check it out. I had heard a lot of good things about the area and being a photographer thought it would be a good place to stop over and spend some time there.

When we first arrived we drove right into the heart of the city, downtown Sioux Falls. The old bridges caught my eye, the old buildings, lots of activity and celebrating going on. So I was interested in getting down there quickly.

Sioux Falls

The amazing and beautiful Sioux Falls.

We finally found a good parking spot. Armed with camera we set off to get some photos. It wasn’t  long I was beginning to regret my visit. As I neared the river I began to see what I couldn’t see from above, while driving. Lots of construction, I mean too much construction! Everywhere I looked something was tore up. There were piles of debris and trash and dirt literally everywhere. Yet I tried to maintain a positive attitude, there must be something here I can photograph.

As I walked the river’s edge looking for worthiness, I felt like maybe I was being too hard on the place. However the construction, dirt piles, and trash were all too overwhelming for me to compensate for.

After an hour or so I decided to give it a rest, look for a hotel room and give it  a fresh try in the morning. At one of the hotels we looked into staying at I found a brochure/magazine on the Sioux Falls area. On the cover was this awesome waterfall and park. So I asked a guy on the street where it was located. He kindly tried to give me directions and actually had a hard time doing so because all the streets were closed or blocked or tore up. He told me, “There are two seasons here, winter and construction.” No chuckle accompanied that comment, he was pretty serious and I unfortunately had no choice but to  believe him.

As I left for our hotel and battled more construction I began to seriously regret the decision to stay in Sioux Falls.

The next day after breakfast, we made our way to Falls Park were the big falls were located. I plugged in Falls Park into the GPS and merrily headed where the calm and soothing Tom Tom voice led me. “Turn here” she said softly,”umm I can’t it is blocked” I replied. “Turn here” again she urged. Everywhere Tom Tom led Paul was sure not to go. At that point I almost left town. It seemed impossible to get to the park that was the ONLY reason Sioux Falls existed and the ONLY reason Sioux Falls has any tourism at all!

Finally I spied what resembled a park, chose the nearest parking stall, and eagerly and anxiously headed out. Somewhat relieved that we finally arrived at our destination, but still apprehensive. This better be the most bitchin waterfall ever I thought to myself!

Not knowing exactly which way to go, we listened and could faintly hear what sounded like the falls. We guessed it right and were soon gazing upon the natural beauty of the Sioux Falls. The natural beauty of Sioux Falls cluttered by guard rails, modern rock work, concrete walk ways, a huge amount of  litter, debris, ugly iron fences, old buildings refurbished with modern day materials. Wow I am ever a whiny little… City of Sioux Falls you really made a mess of this amazing natural wonder and shame on those who are too lazy to find the trash can! I mean the falls were something I had never seen the likes of before and I have been to a lot of places all over the world. Did I get good photos? Yes, of course I did. Did I cover Sioux Falls and represent it as it truly is? No…hell no.

In about 2 or 3 years some of the construction will be done, maybe shorter, maybe longer, I will never know. If you like crisp clean, modern, boring, concrete boardwalks, railings, stairs, fences, then Sioux Falls will be right up your alley. For me it is too much, too much of man’s touch and it is so unnecessary. Keep it natural America! Protect it, respect it, don’t blemish it! Keep it clean, if there isn’t a trash can within reach, carry it out, you carried it in you can carry it out! That’s it, I have nothing left to write.

Watermarks

To watermark or not to watermark. Is a discussion that is being discussed as of late, and I am sure it is not a brand spanking new discussion. Some highly recommend it, others don’t care and some are very

Watermark

Watermark

against it.

Oddly enough I do not like watermarks. I like to look at images without the clutter, I usually know who created the image because I am already on that person’s website, facebook page, pinterest site, google+ site, or etc. So I know who you are and chances are good I like your work and I am already following you. I do not like them on other photography and I especially do not like them on mine.

I know, I know there are watermarks plastered on my photos. I regret that. I have never liked them and have added them with hesitation. The reason I started adding them was because I felt if people are going to share my photos without giving me credit how else will credit be given? I wanted a little something there to show “Hey I Did That!!”

Now today at this hour I am reverting back to my old self.  My solid unwavering conclusion is that people will share a photo regardless of where or who created the image, if they like it they will share it without much concern of where, who, why, what…it’s a nice image I am going to share it or save it to my C drive. If they really like it they will find out who created it and follow them, like the image, comment on the image etc. If they really really really like it then they might actually purchase a print to grace their home or office or give as a gift or all the above.

So moving forward I am going back to my roots and have officially decided to remove watermarks and/or no longer incorporate them in future images. What about copyright infringement? Well yeah there is that, there really is nothing I can do about the creeps who steal images for monetary value. If they get caught they pay. All of my images are copyrighted and registered with the library of congress. Sooooo if they want to deal with litigation they can and will. Those with values and give a rip will give myself or whoever the courtesy of where they dereved the image. However I have decided not to worry about that. I do appreciate it when someone takes the time to give me credit, this is the right thing to do. When it comes to watermarks though,  I would rather someone viewing my art, view it without distraction. If they like it and enjoy it, I would like them to do so without distraction. If they don’t like it they will move on distraction or not. Art is meant to be viewed and especially without watermarks.

Coronado Photo Shoot

Last Friday  I went over to Coronado to see what I could find over there. I haven’t been over there in quite some time and I have been wanting to do a city scape of downtown San Diego from across the bay.

 

I had some time to knock off the clock so I checked out the Stephen Clayton Gallery at the Ferry Landing. As soon as you walk in the door you are hit with colorful, whimsical Dr. Suess paintings. So I started asking questions to Gloria, the curator working there, about his stuff. In talking one topic led to another and I ended up handing her one of my business cards and then went off to look at more art.

 

To my surprise she began looking at my site while I was still there, commenting and asking questions which I thought was pretty cool. So I got to talk about some of my photos for a few minutes. Before long I had to go and find some places to shoot and get set up. Talking to her about my work was a complete surprise to me, in a good way. It makes me feel good about what I do when people take an interest in my photos!

 

I am always looking for new ways to capture an image. Making it unique in as many ways as possible is my goal. Making it my own. However every once in awhile it is good as it is.

 

I was given an overcast sky which is one of my favorite conditions to shoot in. It creates a dreamy effect as the light bounces all over the place due to the reflective properties of the low lying clouds. It also adds contrast and texture that would not otherwise be there.

The Coronado Bay Bridge spans the San Diego Bay and connects the mainland to Coronado.

The Coronado Bay Bridge spans the San Diego Bay and connects the mainland to Coronado.

 

Here is one of the images I shot from Tidelands Park which sits adjacent to where the bridge connects to Coronado.  I like how the bridge was reflecting over the bay creating a light spectacle on an otherwise haze gray evening. I think of a  film strip when I look at this.

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