2 Guys Photo is pleased to introduce you to another in our series of Featured Photographers: Maryann Goldman. I first met Maryann through the daily photo community that we both belong to, where she is best known as “Fotomom”. I think you’ll agree that Maryann’s images are creative, thoughtful, and impressive. And when you read about her choice of camera, you’ll be even more impressed!
2 Guys Photo: Please tell us about yourself Maryann.
I was born in New Jersey but have spent the majority of my life in North Carolina. I currently live in the Raleigh area with my two boys Joey (8) and Johnny (6). I work full time as a software engineer, so I’m comfortable enough with technology to put it to use with my photography. I have a math degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, but I always tell folks that I have trouble balancing my checkbook. I absolutely love being a mom and spending time with my boys going to museums, zoos, the beach, and parks. I like to teach them by living and exploring life. When I’m not working, spending time with the boys, or taking or processing pictures, I enjoy a good movie or TV show.
2 Guys Photo: How long have you been a photographer, and how did you get started?
As long as I can remember, I’ve had a camera. Like most little kids, I had an old family camera or toy camera to play with. I can remember endlessly studying my dad’s Brownie camera. When I was old enough, I even got to take some pictures (square) with it. By the time I was in elementary school, I was carrying a camera on field trips and vacations. In 1980, dad drove us across the country stopping at places like The Grand Canyon. I was so fascinated by the clouds, that I think I have more sky in my shots than canyon. In middle school, I was on the yearbook staff. I enjoyed taking pictures and getting to process some of them in the darkroom. By high school, I was taking pictures of family pets, 4-H projects, and classic cars. As if I wasn’t into photography enough already, my real passion for photography kicked in when I had my first child.
I received my first digital camera, a Kodak 2MP, for Christmas of 1999, and when Joey came along a couple of years later, the numbers of pictures I took each month exploded. I became the extended family photographer, the photographer at every children’s birthday party I attended, and the “go to” person if you needed an impromptu pet or family portrait. As I took more pictures, I became interested in taking pictures of more things. Birds, flowers, barns, and landscapes were all added to my portfolio. Before long, I had displayed my pictures at a few coffee shop shows and had sold my first picture. For the time being, photography is a hobby, but I think sometime in the future I’d like to do event and photo journalistic work and maybe even some portraits.
2 Guys Photo: What’s in your bag and what are your go-to applications for post-processing?
Do I have to answer this question? Really? OK… I shoot with a Canon Powershot S3 IS. That’s right, I don’t own a DSLR. I’m actually on my second S3. After tens of thousands of pictures and years of service, I took a flash shot, and the pop-up flash exploded. After I dried the tears, I ordered a like new one off eBay and sent the damaged one off to Canon for repair and kept on shooting. I’ve tried a Rebel and didn’t like it. I shot with my dad’s 40D and couldn’t make it sing. I bought myself an SX10 IS and felt it had too much noise. So, until I can pick up a ‘better’ camera and get better pics than I feel I’m getting with the S3, I’m sticking with it. I do dream of a DSLR body for the purpose of mounting a really nice 400mm lens. Some day, maybe, but for now the boys’ college funds come first.
As for post-processing, I’ve evolved much more. 15 years ago, I started out editing my first picture at work using Paint Shop Pro. I became a fan of Yahoo for sharing my pictures with family and friends. When Yahoo got out of the picture business, I moved over to Google’s Picasa and never looked back. For a long time, Picasa met all my needs, but as a member of SmugMug’s Daily Photo Community, I began to see pictures processed with layers, and I knew I wanted to learn more about that too. Today, I use quite a few tools to post-process my shots:
- Photoshop Elements 7
- PhotoFrame from onOne (plus I have the rest of their Photo Suite 5)
- Photomatix for HDR (see my barn image above)
- Microsoft Research AutoCollage
- Canon Utilities
I have worked with a trial version of Lightroom and Nik’s Color Efex Pro. Lightroom wasn’t for me, but I sure would love to have the Nik products some day. I even think I’d like to move up to CS5 now.
2 Guys Photo: Maryann, in looking at your SmugMug site , I see a wide range of subjects and types of photography, and it appears you have a real talent for portraits, flowers, and birds. What do you like to shoot and why?
I think of myself as having an eclectic style. There really isn’t anything I don’t like to shoot. A lot of my photo ops come from my kids in either taking pictures of them and their friends or of the activities that we do together. I have a genuine love of plants and animals, so if we’re at a park or museum, I’m probably fitting in a few shots in those categories too.
Since I strive to better my photography every day and to participate in the SmugMug Daily Photo Community, when the kids and outdoor shots don’t present themselves, I will switch to some indoor shots. I like to shoot on theme for holidays, and I often find myself converting my pictures to cards.
Glass, mirrors, candles and crystals all fascinate me alone or in combination.
2 Guys Photo: I enjoy all of your images but especially the creative shots where you set up the scene with household objects like candles, mirrors, beads, etc. Can you tell us about that process of “seeing” the shot before you put it together, and how you make it come to life?
I really don’t know how it started, but I began taking pictures of glass marbles, sugar, and beads along with various shaped clear glass plates. I used to make a lot of cement stepping stones, and I had all these marbles lying around. I guess I was looking for something to do with them. I remember that the first shots were done in my bathtub of all places with a light source shining down on top of the plate with marbles on it and me shooting down onto the plate too What a dud of a shot. The colors were horrible. A friend suggested that I shoot up through the plate with sunlight shining through it. Wow, a whole new concept in abstract glass shots was born. I began to experiment with various patterns in the glass plates I used, with using different color combinations, trying different shooting angles and even with different f-stops. If you like abstract glass, my best of the best gallery is here.
2 Guys Photo: How do you stay motivated to keep on shooting? What (or who) inspires you?
This one is easy to answer…the kids and my desire to improve. I don’t want to miss any special moments, so my purse and camera case are the same thing. I suppose I measure my days by the smiles on the kids’ faces both in person and in pictures. I love to sit back at the end of the day and reflect upon the fun we’ve had in the pictures I’ve taken. Of course some days I don’t have shots of the kids, but when I go to look at my flower pictures or whatever else I’ve taken that day, it’s like a gift to see the shots on the computer screen. Was there a treasure in today’s batch? If not, maybe there will be tomorrow.
Then of course there is the joy of sharing those shots with my friends both nearby and online. If I’ve taken a picture that I think will bring a smile to a friend, I’ll print it and deliver a copy just because. I’ve even been known to take a picture and leave a copy for someone I don’t really know; I did that with a Christmas tree stand shot this past year. My picture gave someone a smile, and that was encouraging. Although much of my motivation does come from within, I am also very much encouraged and inspired by the work I see other members of the Daily Photo Community posting each day. It’s an honor to share photos and comments with such a great group of photographers.
2 Guys Photo: Maryann, you actively update your photo website on SmugMug with new images – how do you benefit from this and who else does?
I keep a staging gallery each month of all the shots that I don’t delete. That ends up being over 1000 shots. The gallery serves as one of my back-up strategies as well as a place to review my photos and pick ones for additional processing or posting to the SmugMug Daily Photo Community. I really like how my pictures look on SmugMug. I like the search/indexing feature too if I take the time to type in some words with the pictures. Of course I could stand to be even more organized than I am, but I do have many gallery categories. If you want to know what there is to do in the Raleigh area, especially for kids, my site would be a good place to start. I have freely shared my pictures with The Museum of Life and Science in Durham on several occasions, and was honored that they chose to use one of my shots of the kids running on their Explore the Wild boardwalk as part of an ad campaign for the museum.
2 Guys Photo: What are your future photographic plans?
I don’t have any big plans. I’m sure there’s a DSLR in my future, but I’ve been thinking that for several years now, and I still use the S3. I’d like to experiment with water drop shots. I want more zoom to catch those elusive Great Blue Herons. I’d like to travel to DC, any time of year, but especially during cherry blossom time. Of course it’s been years and years since I was out west, to Niagara falls, up the Statue of Liberty or even over seas. I’d love to revisit some of those attractions with the boys and my camera. Mostly I’m content to work on better butterfly shots or finding new barns and rural scenes to shoot.
2 Guys Photo: What advice do you have for someone who is either just starting out in photography and/or anyone wanting to improve their photographic skills?
I do think that taking pictures each day is a great way to sharpen your skills. It forces you to shoot different types of shots as the seasons, holidays, lighting, and opportunities change. Using digital photography really opens up the possibilities of endless exploration and experimentation. Don’t be afraid of trying new things or of failure. Try everything, explore opportunities, experiment at every chance, revise when needed, seek feedback in safe environments, ask questions when you’re curious, and most of all have fun.
Also, don’t feel limited by the equipment in your bag or the software on your computer. So much of the photograph really comes from within the photographer.
For me, so much of photography is about telling a stories or preserving a memories through pictures.
There’s the time a Great Blue Heron flew across the pond at Duke Gardens and landed 6’ from me and the boys. They managed to remain incredibly still, and I got this shot:
Or there was the time Ranger Greg pointed out this Red Shouldered Hawk to me and the kids at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. We enjoyed watching him for at least 15 minutes taking pictures all along:
Johnny having the time of his life at the beach is both a priceless one for mom and a fun shot others can enjoy too:
Joey with his classmate Eliza is a Valentine memory to cherish for years to come:
The memory of my goddaughter Madi losing her first tooth.
A shot to preserve a fun shopping trip with the kids and a chance to try something new with PS.
I never want to miss the shot that goes with the story…
2 Guys Photo: Thanks for sharing your story Maryann. Keep up the great work and we look forward to having you share many more of your stories with us.
Please enjoy all of Maryann’s galleries here.