Joan Zachary: Blog en-us (C) Joan Zachary (Joan Zachary) Mon, 17 Jul 2017 00:44:00 GMT Mon, 17 Jul 2017 00:44:00 GMT Is it art? Or something else? OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Earlier this summer, I won First Prize/Best In Show for one of my photographs at the Saucon Valley Conservancy Art Show.  My prize included the entire Topaz suite of photo editing software.  That adds up to about $1,000 worth of software - which I must confess, I would never have bought for myself.  I already have a number of groovy add-ins - and firmly believe that the person who dies with the most Lightroom presets wins.  But since I do the bare minimum of editing on most of my images, my life would be just fine if Topaz and I had never met.


Still, we’re friends, or at least acquaintances, and it’s been a nice relationship so far.  I just sit there and move those little sliders back and forth until I like what I see.  Don’t ask me what I did, I won’t be keeping track.  Of course, it’s possible to do too much to an image, to go past that point of no return.  I won’t be showing you those.  


My favorite buttons in Topaz, when they’re available, are the little “dice,” which assign a totally random selection of settings to an image.  Some will have you screaming as you scramble for the reset button - but others will amaze you.  It’s a good way to learn the software - just roll the dice, go into the settings, and see if you can figure out what the magical elves changed on your behalf.


Which brings me to my Topaz conundrum - these images often look so much like paintings, I’m downright embarrassed.  An artist with a pallet of oils or watercolors could get the same result, but it would take days, maybe even weeks.  I don’t have the eye-hand coordination for that.  So I push some slider bars around, click some buttons on and off - and in a matter of minutes, I have something that looks awfully close to hand-painted.  My question:  is this too easy?  Is it still a photograph?  Is it still art?


Bear in mind that not all my images need the Topaz treatment.  Most of my favorites get a little tweak of exposure and/or contrast, maybe a vignette to draw the eye where I want it to go.  But software like Topaz, ON1, and the beloved and tragic Nik Collection open new doors for photographers.  When I’m in the field with my camera, I’ve started making a few images that I know are destined to be canvases in my digital darkroom.  Nothing special about them in the camera - but dance them through Topaz Simplify or Topaz Clean, and something unique is born.  So, yeah - I guess that's art.


I’m grateful and honored to have won the award, of course.  But there’s something else, too - I'm headed down a road I would never have traveled otherwise.  Please feel free to join me as we continue our travels…


]]> (Joan Zachary) Mon, 17 Jul 2017 00:44:24 GMT
What I did on my summer vacation I have just returned from a photography retreat at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York.  Okay, in the Omega catalog, it would technically be a “workshop” - but more accurately, Photography and the Emotional Landscape, with Douglas Beasley, is six days spent with your camera in a photographers’ playground with a teacher who will turn your photographic world on its ear. This is why I went - for the third time.  

Family Tree

Remember, we never step in the same river twice.

Knitting LadyKnitting Lady - and a bag of other little plastic people - joined me at Omega.

I have a lot to share from my time in the woods, but it will take me a while to line it all up, word-wise.  So instead, I will indulge you with some images, and a list of resolves, which I hope you will help me keep.


My resolves


  1. No more watermarks.  I’m on the fence about them to begin with, never used them in Aperture.  But when I switched to Lightroom, watermarks were so darned easy over there, I said - what the hey?  I’ll give ‘em a whirl. Then the subject came up in class, which made me think.  Although watermarking some images may be prudent, depending on the subject and where you’re posting it, you’re also adding distraction to something beautiful, on purpose.  Why would I want to do that?  “Worry about having work that is good enough to steal.” (Doug Beasley)
  2. Post more on the Vision Quest Workshops Facebook page.  It’s a good place to be seen.
  3. Whenever I feel anxious, I’m going to get out my camera.  Believe it or not, this retirement stuff can make one anxious (and the state of the world in general doesn’t help).  I guess I’m not alone.  Someone in class mentioned how grabbing her camera helped her get through some family/health issues, and how it ended up becoming a form of meditation for her.  Sounds good to me.
  4. Post more on my blog.  Help me keep this one, folks!  If you don’t hear from me after a while, drop me a line.  Tell me about a blog I should read or a place I should go for pictures.  Maybe I just need a little inspiration…
  5. Slow down, but don’t stop.  Slowing down = good.  Stopping = not good.
  6. I’m going on a Google voyage with my class notes, starting with the long list of other photographers to check out.  
  7. Do something photographic every day.  It does not have to be new work.  It can be editing old work, looking at other people’s stuff, watching videos, etc.  But do something.
  8. Make a blog entry out of this list.  Done, done and done!


]]> (Joan Zachary) Thu, 13 Jul 2017 18:43:13 GMT
Hellertown Barn Tour, Spring 2017 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My friend Ruth Dennison holds the enviable position of curator for the Michael Heller Homestead in Hellertown, PA.  As such, she plans and schedules all kinds of events, including the spring "barn shoot" with Olympus Visionary Frank Smith. I've done this shoot before, but it's worth doing again and again, thanks to Frank's knowledge and encouragement, and the excellent access to some photogenic history.  As they have in years past, museum docents served as models, dressing in period costumes and taking places in various places around the homestead.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Frank comes equipped with reflectors, and most of the group tags along - although sometimes this can be your cue to go where everyone else is NOT.  


We were especially fortunate that the rain had pretty much blown away by the time we went outside, leaving droplets behind in the flower garden.


After an hour at the Heller Homestead, we were issued maps and sent a mile or so down the road to a horse farm (the name escapes me).  The barn was old, and had some nice details, but it was easily upstaged by the resident horses.  



This was my first opportunity, at least in recent memory, to include horses in my pictures.  Looking forward to more!

A good - and educational - time was had by all.  Stay tuned for the big Saucon Valley barn tour in the fall!


]]> (Joan Zachary) Tue, 23 May 2017 23:08:00 GMT
A morning in Jim Thorpe OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I've wanted to get back to Jim Thorpe for almost forever.  It's been at least five years - and several cameras - ago.  Thanks to the Palmerton Camera Club, I got up early on a Sunday to drive north and snag a good parking spot in the public lot; I ended up staying about twice as long as I had intended, because there's so much to see and because I wanted to get my money's worth for that parking.  The Palmerton gang had hired the services of Tom Storm (and his bravely barefoot partner, Brie), to show us around town and be available for any photographic assistance, too.  Tom, in turn, invited a friend of his, Jack, who was old enough to be Tom's grandpa and had enough stories about the town to keep us entertained for hours.


Of course, the architecture alone is astounding.  (Can you find Santa Claus?)


Plenty of little shops, and where you have little shops, you have shopkeepers and shoppers.  Here we have a notice board outside the cigar shop; I didn't look to see what he was changing, but there's probably a price list there and some suggestions on the latest product.


Of course, as luck would always have it, the best photo opportunities are on the way back to the car, where we found a troupe of Native American dancers in the square, outside the train station.  Thank heaven for continuous mode, you know?

I have more Jim Thorpe images, but these are my four favorites.  Maybe we'll get around to more as the week goes on.  In the meantime, enjoy!

]]> (Joan Zachary) Mon, 22 May 2017 15:52:46 GMT
Joan Zachary is retiring. The uncertainty of my inner childThe uncertainty of my inner child

On April 6, Joan Zachary (that would be me) will retire from her job at Martin Guitar, in Nazareth, PA, where she has worked for the past nineteen years.  I’d planned on making it an even twenty, but it’s time for a change, and I’ve been made an offer I can’t refuse.  Plus, spring is here, can summer be far behind?

I keep hearing that “retirement is scary.”  More than one person tells me that apparently I have the guts to do something they just can’t bring themselves to do.  “I need a little more money.”  “I’ve got too many things on my calendar that I just have to see through.”   And my personal favorite:  “What am I going to do with myself all day?”  Yes, all those things have crossed my mind, too.  But I’m taking the leap anyway.  So there.

Well, what am I going to do with myself all day?

  1. Make photographs.  Many of them will be shared right here on this site.
  2. Make music.  Sing, mostly.  I still have to build up my repertoire, but now I’ll have time for that.  Randy (my significant other) is tuning up the guitar and can't wait to help.
  3. Write.  Here’s something that’s really fallen by the wayside over the past few years!  Shame on me. I’ll be ramping up slowly, but this blog is a good place to start, I reckon.
  4. Get more sleep.  Napping is for everyone.  I don’t care what age you are.  Sleep is good.  Ask Ariana Huffington.
  5. Have lunch with people.  I am assembling a list of people with whom I want to share a midday meal.  Would you like to be one of them?  Let me know!
  6. Go back to the gym.  There, I said it - so I've got to make good on that one.

I’ve never written a blog before - but then again, I’ve never retired before, either.  It’s an adventure, right?  Come back again soon and let's enjoy this ride together.


]]> (Joan Zachary) gym lunch music naps photography retirement scary writing Wed, 29 Mar 2017 00:44:15 GMT