Last week, on the most perfect May day ever created, me and my friends dressed to the nines and headed out to a gorgeous meadow with our friends Bluebird and Dylan from the band Lasher Keen, to shoot their new music video. Without giving anything away, I will say that there were nymphs, satyrs, chasing, dancing, and magic... here are some behind-the-scenes shots to wet your appetite!
Big meadow, and big oak
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair...
our hostess, Bluebird, getting punchy
me and Summer, making eyes at the camera again
scene from a surreal picnic
Beautiful Bluebird and Summer
Bev stuffs the satyr's pants
Crystal ball gazing...
the masked dance
Serenading us while we dance
walking back to the road at the end of a long, inspiring day
I'll post the video here when it's done (you know these things take time!) but meanwhile, you can enjoy the INCREDIBLE new Lasher Keen album here.
additional photos by Bev La Fae, Julia Boorinakis-Harper, Bluebird Gaia, and Jessica Henry
I know it's shocking, but I don't actually have a smart phone... which is fine with me, most of the time, except that this means that I also don't have a small camera that's handy at all times. Lately, however, I started constantly carrying a little camera in my bag, and as a result, I have been taking soooo many more spontaneous photos. Here are some scenes from the past few weeks:
me and our kitten, Lily Belle
my friend Kirsten from Arabesque Aromas making a new friend
wild life/ still life
band members making wishes
Rainy Day Chia at the studio
Band, about to play a show
They bought us champagne!
Lily Belle, from the outside looking in
Kirsten and I at our favorite Chinese restaurant
more yard art
Inside a friend's fantastic cottage
In the interior of The Phoenix Rose, Nevada City
I just realized that today marks the four year anniversary of Astral Boutique- whoa! Time passes so quickly.... that means I have been running my Etsy shop for half the time that I have lived in the Sierra Foothills. Somehow in my mind my time working as a receptionist in the local acupuncture and Naturopathic clinics seems to take up almost all of my Work Memory, and it still feels like Astral Boutique has just begun. I guess that's because my work feels like it is always changing- constantly new clothes, new photos, new challenges, new goals.
As a celebration, I am going to indulge myself with a post featuring my favorite photos of all time from the shop history. And a few memories...
Four years ago, myself and my friend Amber at Violet Folklore decided to open our own shops, so Astral Boutique was launched (we ran Violet Folklore together for its first year).
This sounds like something your grandmother would say, but, truly, gas was much cheaper then, so I used to drive sometimes 1-2 hours away to do my photo shoots. It was a hunt for novel photos, a great chance to experiment with photography in different settings and lights, and it was also a lot of fun to be in the Field, literally, after spending several years couped up in offices.
Some of my favorite places are in these shots- the above photo was taken at the Bear River, on the Highway 20, and below is the Yuba River at Bridgeport (before the bridge was closed for renovations).
The Bear River:
Meadows by the Bear River:
I also loved to go to the old Aspen groves up near Sierraville, in the high Sierras. where Basque sheerherders once worked and carved their names into the white bark long ago. The changing colors of the leaves tempted me up there again and again:
Locally, Empire Mine State Park is an amazing resource for photographers- there are always people there doing wedding portraits, graduation portraits, etc. Taken from the rose garden:
The sun stays longer at my in-laws, who live about 1,500 feet lower in elevation... here I am doing a photo shoot in their backyard and visiting their neighbor:
Funny enough, but the more I traveled far and wide to take photos, the more I realized the potential in my own backyard. (I also was learning that the clothes themselves were more important than having novel backdrops.) There are several different micro-environments in the acreage behind our house, and, of course, everything changes as the light moves through the seasons.
The fire road at the top of the hill:
The beautiful stand of oak trees which you see in most of my photos (I'm totally fibbing in this first photo- I don't actually play mandolin. I do play guitar and sometimes I try at the banjo, but the mandolin was too pretty a prop to resist):
The old horse corral and cedar forest down the slope (here, with my Imaginary Friend):
More oaks, and more imaginary friends:
There was a huge storm and one of the large oaks fell down. It reminded me of the story of the Giving Tree... it had become a seat for me:
Since I shoot outdoors in all weather, sometimes that means snow. It was cold, yes, but I loved how this snow acted as a natural light reflector.... my face was lit from below:
And of course there are those marvelous, incomparable sweet peas of the summer:
I don't usually do indoor shots, but this was going for a specific Wildly Domesticated Marie Antoinette look (it's my favorite look, what can I say. I'd walk around like this every day if it didn't take three hours to get dressed and do the hair right) for a contest run by the Indie Free Spirits Team:
After working my little point and shoot camera as hard as I could for a few years, I finally did myself a favor and upgraded to a Nikon D70S. Oh the joy of a good lens! I will say that it took me a couple of months (and this was with constant shooting) to really feel comfortable with the new camera- it was such a big change. But eventually I realized that good lighting is good lighting no matter what kind of camera you are using, and has to be the basis of every shot.
I am a light lover now... I think of everything in terms of whether it would be good photo light. You can imagine the tug on my heartstrings are we whizzed through Arles on the band's European tour, with not a moment to stop (the town in Southern France where Van Gogh was famously enamored of the vibrant light). I just stared out at the fields glowing in the afternoon sunshine murmering yes, yes, yes, I understand... I understand...
There are a precious few weeks when I can make natural crowns of sweet peas to wear in my shoots:
At other times faux flowers (and even- gasp!- faux hair) do me right:
On this cool day in Spring, the smoke from the neighbor's fire place blew behind me at just the right time for this photo. I can see why film and TV people use so much fake smoke for ambience:
Since my photo technique almost always involves backlighting, I am a real sucker for semi-sheer and voile fabrics.
I love how this sparkle is *winking* off of my shoulder:
My fastest sellers are always dresses that I would desperately love to keep for myself, like the one below. However, there are always bills to be paid, and if I find the right dress at the wrong time, it goes on the chopping block... such is the woe of the retailer!
(Someone really awesome got the dress, so that made me feel all better.)
I have learned so much in these past four years- but I honestly feel that it is just the beginning. I approach this business the way I approach anything that I know nothing about: with a lot of enthusiasm, a few opinions solicited from my more intelligent friends or my husband (only a few, because I am bull- headed), some caffeinated strategizing/revelation-making while on road trips, and mostly a whole lot of trial and error. I like that I am still on the learning curve, meaning that I am still learning what makes an online retail vintage clothing business tick, what makes it a success or a failure (believe me, I feel like both a success and a failure, depending on which day you ask me), and how on earth to grow the darm thing so that one can afford groceries AND health care. (Sometimes I really can't even afford the groceries!)
This summer Etsy made me their Featured Seller which, I have to be honest, was a huge Thumbs Up and really solid ammunition to use against my nasty, clever inner critic. A huge thanks to whoever at Etsy noticed me and decided to give me a vote of confidence- it really meant the world to me.
Thanks for allowing this act of self-indulgence.... my girlfriends are always saying that I need to celebrate/validate myself more. Well, I'll tell you.... four years.... even I am impressed with that. Go Astral Boutique!
My friend Cat spent the last week hanging out with me and the Sugatroll, making music and accompanying us on last-swim-of-the-season river adventuring. Before she left, we did an impromptu photo shoot on the hill behind my house, starting out somewhat serious and quickly degrading into giggling 8-year-old girls. It was the most fun I've had with my camera in a long time.
My personal favorite:
A unicorn appears in the forest:
And other creatures as well:
Cat is an incredible musician- I know you'll love her work. Check out her cover of The Cure's "Love Song", filmed live on her roof in New York City:
Thanks to Cat for being my playmate this week!
If you have noticed my sparse blogging lately, I apologize- but hopefully you are using summer as a chance to break away from the computer like I am! I have so many neat photos to share, from my recent shoots, but first things first- I was interviewed on the Very Coolest Blog Ever, and there is a little giveaway going on over there to win Sasha and the Shamrocks CDs! Head on over to The Ghoul Next Door and leave a comment to be entered to win. (I hope you enjoy the interview, too- it was a lot of fun to do.)
Now onto those photos.... Last week I took a trip up up up to an Alpine Valley where sits the little town of Sierraville, and did a photo shoot in the Quaking Aspen trees in the hills surrounding the valley. I had noticed these trees and their stunning bark every time I'd gone to soak at the hot springs at Sierraville, and always wanted to come back and take pictures. Suddenly I found myself making plans for the expedition, which was accomplished to a soundtrack of The Fairport Convention and The Steve Miller Band. I think luck and the fairies were on my side that day, because these are some of my favorite photos ever!
(there was gorgeous Mugwort in the High Sierras!)
It's a bit blurry, but you can see the incredible colors on this insect!
Naturally, I went to the hot springs between my morning and afternoon photo shoots, so I was feeling on top of the world! I think, at 5,000 feet, I actually was on top of a good part of the world...
The foothills are wonderful, but sometimes you got to get outta Dodge. Luckily, if you head East or North from Grass Valley, it is only about 15 minutes until you are in the true wilds of the Sierras. Yesterday, I felt the urge very strongly, and took a long up the highway 20 to this beautiful nature trail at the head of the road to Lake Bowman. I know the tiger lilies in the wetland bloom sometime around now, but it changes every year, so I was crossing my fingers... and I was in luck! It was so gorgeous up there, above any last traces of smog which may have crept up from the Sacramento Valley, and totally temperate even though it had been 100 degrees at my house. It was so nice to take pictures with a different backdrop. Natural light can be soooooo frustrating (I had to wait a half hour for the sun to go behind a distant pine tree so I could capture this one shot perfectly... talk about being in the moment!), but the results can be magical. I certainly felt the presence of a multitude of Nature Divas (aka fairies, brownies, elves, etc.) in the crystalline air, and there were many, many voices mixed in the sounds of the Bear River. I didn't see any bears (I kept singing and snapping my fingers loudly, so that I wouldn't see any bears, don't worry, mom, I was thinking of you-- for some reason the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange, which actually has some lovely ancient music on it, was what I was using as my self-defense!) but I did see tons of beautiful birds... and flocks of mosquitos, at dusk, when I literally had to run for my car to get away from them! I counted five on my arm at once. Argh! Maybe they liked the banana chips in my blood? I did eat a lot on the way up there... these days I am trying not to have any caffeine, except in emergencies, because it tweaks me out so badly, and I re-remembered that bananas give me a true boost of energy and stamina. Better than caffeine, actually. Anyway, here are some of my favorite shots... I hope you enjoy! The feather, incidentally, was waiting for me on a tree trunk on my path down the to tiger lilies. Serendipity!
I hope you all are having a beautiful summer... I have been blogging a lot less, cause I have been making outdoor Rest and Relaxation a top priority. After this endlessly rainy winter, I am not taking the sunshine for granted! Sending good wishes to my readers in all corners of the globe. Wait, isn't a globe round? Hmmm. Must be a holdover phrase.........
I feel so blessed to have so many amazing photographers suddenly helping me out lately! There is a great movement of energy in my life in the arena of my Etsy store, because I am going to be leaving my day job in a few weeks to do it full-time (hooray!!!!). I think the Universe totally picked up on this, and is giving me a big thumbs up by bringing these incredible artists my way.
Case in point: look at this photo shoot that I did this weekend, with the amazing photographer Laura Marie. My drop-dead-gorgeous friend Arielle (from the rollerskating adventure!) modeled with me, and naturally we had to go to Bridgeport. Just look at some of the stunning images that Laura created:
Laura was ridiculously fun to work with... she thought on her feet so quickly, while being totally mellow and making us feel comfortable in front of the camera. It really felt more like playing more than working; she has a true gift that way. Not to mention that she orchestrated several outfit changes and backdrop changes in just a few hours time, and I was awed at her efficiency combined with endless Good Artistic Ideas.
Laura Marie works out of Sacramento, and you can find out all about her here. I am so thankful to her for doing this shoot!
You remember those pictures I promised you, from my friend Anthony Georgis, who did the Astral Boutique "art" shoot the other weekend? Well, my friends, Anthony has made some serious magic in the photo lab! Here are some of my fave shots... I am just blown away by how gorgeous these are! A HUGE thanks to Anthony (peep his work here- you are going to be impressed) and our beautiful model Julianna!
And here's one especially for fans of my cat, Zazou (you know who you are!):
(His mane looks magnificent in the light, don't you think?)