It’s not very often that text, copy, or any sort of word makes a statement in my photography. Alphanumerics tend to be incidentals.

Behind the work is a different story, though. My favorite brainstorming is mind-mapping: connecting words and phrases in a correlative spiderweb of an idea. Most recently, my idea is translucency. While looking at my photographs in that body of work, the word comes to mind in a subtle way. This use of words is different that the advertising described by George Lois.

The idea that really stands out to me in reflecting on Lois’ first commandment in relation to my own work is the interplay between words and images as a form of communication. Even if my photographs do not include words, when we view them we think in words. There is a translation that occurs when viewing art. Because to say, write, or otherwise express our reaction and feelings about one of my photographs we use words. Furthermore, anytime I submit a body of work I am asked to include an artist statement: words that describe the visual image. At first, I dread writing down the words that would appear to seal the fate of the associated photographs. As I work through my writing process, I try very hard to maintain a sense of open-endedness. My interpretation in the artist statement is never designed to me the final comment.

So yes, the word does indeed come first.



Smokey Cactus © 2013 NATE METZ
Smokey Cactus © 2013 NATE METZ

It’s almost hard to believe that another challenge has come and gone. While on vacation in North Carolina this month, I had about an hour in the Biltmore Estate Conservatory to take photographs. Tucked away in a side room were the cactus including this Old Man Cactus. With my signature tight framing, the wisps of hair instantly reminded me of thick wafts of smoke. I knew when the challenge prompt included this direction– “The theme of your photo should clearly be smoke, NOT a person smoking, or the word (smoke). You are welcome to use as much post processing as you like.” –black backgrounds with white or colored smoke in elaborate, decorative patterns would be common. As quickly as I thought I’d experiment with that type of photograph, I decided to upload Smokey Cactus.

I’m happy with how well my entry fared in the challenge voting. The feedback I received through comments were about the technical proficiency and how it related to the theme. All but one comment acknowledged that it was a creative interpretation and different in approach. The lone dissenter’s comment was arrogant,disrespectful and narrow-minded. So, I won’t discuss it further. I am grateful at the warm reception and hope that my work continues to challenge a status quo, to make my viewers reexamine their own beliefs, and to make such bold statements!

Challenge 168: SMOKE
PS postprocessing: crop, levels, auto color correct, resize, USM, export
Rank: 13th
Nikon D80: 1/125 sec, f5, ISO 360



I’ve been think a lot about the ideal of perfection and making mistakes. I was sharing a story with another artist on Facebook about how I never delete any photograph that I take. Never ever. I often will flip through old files and see something new in a picture that had previously not met focus, or something that I can manipulate into some great digital art, or sometimes a little heavier post-processing can add a selling touch. All of the images above never were posted in their original state; they were the rejects. Until now.

Coincidently, I saw this video on my YouTube feed the same day:

Some key takeaways for me:
**Fear of making mistakes can cause us to never take action at all and never try.
**Everything is an opportunity to learn and to grow.

I can honestly say that some of my favorite photographs were not a result of me walking outside, turning on my camera, pushing the shutter button once, and uploading that image as a final print. Never ever. Looking at my mis-takes is precisely how I learned photography. I have not taken any coursework on photography or cameras. With the shutter, aperture, ISO, and other settings I took a lot of mis-takes to learn, and I would say that the same true for those with a degree. I believe that mis-takes aren’t even mistakes because they are exactly as intended. It’s up to us to change our perspective to see what we can learn from our rejection of something we created!


Sleigh Trails © 2012 NATE METZ
Sleigh-trails on Christmas Day © 2012 NATE METZ

It was a much better way to start out the new year on the photo challenge front. The theme, 5, left me faced with several obvious choices: dice, watches/clocks, hands/feet/fingers/toes, money. I opted for a grouping because it lent more freedom creatively as to how 5 would show up. I was not having much luck finding five of anything in a natural setup without my physically placing 5 items together. Remember I’m not a huge fan of studio work and forcing a shot under controlled settings. In the last few days before the deadline I resigned to sit this round out because I wanted to submit a photograph that fits my aesthetic and my voice. After posting Linear Sunrise, I glanced back through all of my shots and realized that a different frame had five contrails. And as I reflected more on my audience I did tell a white lie and say I took the photograph Christmas Day instead of Christmas Eve because it fit the story better:

Santa’s sleigh left 5 contrails criss-crossing the sky on Christmas!

I received some nice, positive feedback that I had an unexpected approach and that the backstory information was fun. I know this photograph is a success because I managed to keep my point of view and add some fluff that would appeal to a specific audience that would help them to understand my work.

14th Place
Apple iPhone 4
1/539 sec, f2, ISO 80
Post-Processing– PS actions: crop, levels adjustment, hue shift +15, saturation +3, lightness +3, resize, USM, export

My constant comparison of my work to others in the challenges does appear to be unhealthy to you readers of that I am sure! It only appears that way because I’m not sure what else to talk about in these challenge entries. A huge part of the content for my art blog for a challenge entry is the competition, the judging, the comparing. I’m also really just putting myself out there (here) as I define my artistic voice and learn how to present my work. I have an exhibit coming up this summer and this forum has been instrumental in me learning to speak intelligently about my work and my process.

Thanks for reading!