Friday, May 14, 2010

Featured Artist: Lenny Garza


I have had the sincere pleasure of working with Lenny on two occasions thus far.  Our goal: To capture the allure and authenticity of the pinup era. To put it lightly, I was completely blown away by his talent and the finished product!  He brings to the table a professional attitude and trained eye but also a quick wit and a brilliant sense of humor that makes you wonder where all the time went once the shoot is finished because you were having such fun the whole darn time!  I would love to share with all of you, my dear friends, some insights from one of my favorite photogs:  Lenny Garza.  :::CUE APPLAUSE!:::

Q:  What name do you go by personally/professionally?

A:  Personally, I go by Lenny. Occasionally, I go by Your Highness or Your Honor, but I like to keep it informal, so Lenny is usually good. I haven't got a stage name or alias (at least not one that I'd want the authorities to know about); my company name is Photophisticate, but if anyone ever called me that, I probably wouldn't answer. 

Q:  Where do you call home?

A:  My house is in Burnsville, Minnesota, but I'm a native-born (and proud) Texan, so there's like this 10 foot diameter area around me (and any Texan) that 'becomes' Texas, so I'm always back home. And anyone within 10 feet of me is also in Texas, so technically, since I was at my daughter's birth, she's also a Texan.
"Freeze Turkey...Vulture"

Q:  What or who inspired you to become an artist?

A:  Everyone in my family was creative... my mom wrote computer programs (when computers took up entire floors), my dad played guitar, my cousin played piano, my uncle was a photographer... so I'd have to say my entire family is my inspiration, and being Hispanic, I have a HUGE family, so I'm never short of inspiration. I'm not sure I believe in talent though, because that implies some kind of separation between those with talent and everyone else. I like to think that everyone can be creative... it's how you react to whatever you create that determines your drive. I love music and photography, so that's where I spend a LOT of my free time.

Q:  Do you have any upcoming projects? Following that question, where do you see yourself in the next five years (in Photography Land) and what goals to you hope to fulfill?

A:  I'm doing a car/motorcycle shoot later this month. With any luck, I'll be able to put a calendar together that will (hopefully) make some extra money for me and the models. And in five years, I'd like to have been picked up by a national magazine and sent to different parts of the world (I'd be happy if they only sent me to the Caribbean) to capture images. My biggest project though is to learn. I want to know everything, but I know I never will. So I study, I play around and ultimately, I'll know stuff I didn't know before.


Q:  How would you describe your style?

A:  I like to think my style is more artistic than 'real', if that makes any sense. I like the images I get, but I have to modify them to match what I see in my head. Whether it's a photo of a model or a landscape, I have to modify it somehow. I've captured a split instant of time and space, so I feel a little guilty about making it different than what it originally was, but I also believe in making something your own. And to do that, you have to modify it. I'm not necessarily saying adding flames or explosions or something that extreme (although I HAVE done that a few times). I'm saying adding textures where there were none before, changing contrasts, things like that. I still want the photo to be 'true' to the moment, but I also want it to be my own. Or put a different way, if you play a piece of music, you add something, you slow it down a little, you play it louder or softer, etc. It's still the same song, but you've changed it.

 "Not the Grapes of Wrath"

Q:  The following images you provided are some of your personal favorites. Would you please share why?

A:  I've got a LOT of favorites, for various reasons. Some are of my own family, some are mistakes that actually turned out better than anything I could have planned, some are red (I LOVE red... it has such a cool sound) and some (to me, anyway) are just right - technically speaking. They're here:

 (This is one of MY personal favorites as well!)

Ooh...Look!  I made the cut!  Our love to Vargas!
:::I used a variety of select photos from Lenny's favorite works throughout his interview, but make sure to check out the Flickr site he provided to view the rest!  They are amazing!:::

Q:  What type of equipment do you prefer to shoot with?

A:  I don't think there's enough of a difference between brands (Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc) to say that one is better than any other at capturing images; one might be easier to understand in one area or another, but better? Probably not. The gear is just a tool used to get the job done; it makes it easier. The REAL gear that makes the difference is you... 'see' the image in your mind before you ever take it, then find the right perspective, lighting, etc to get you as close to what's in your head as possible. Any of the shots I've taken could have been made with any (and I do mean any) camera... it would have taken more or less work to do it though.
Q:  If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?

A:  I wish that lens existed... it'd be able to zoom in REALLY close and zoom out to a really wide fish-eye type length AND it'd be really fast (both in focus and aperture). But until someone invents that lens (and becomes a multi-millionaire in the process), I have two favorites... a Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 lens and a Nikon 60mm f2.8 lens. I use the Tamron for most of my portrait shots; I can get in close for head shots, then zoom out for wide angle perspectives. And the Nikon is awesome for headshots and macros. With the right lighting and a few filters, I can replicate just about any other lens I need (which goes back to better equipment being nothing more than a tool that makes the job easier... it's still up to you).

Q:  What is your favorite computer/editing accessory, other than your computer?

A:  I used to use a mouse to do all of my editing, mostly because before that, I developed my own film and didn't need a computer. So when I switched to digital, I didn't know any better and used what I was comfortable with. Then I discovered tablets... they're AWESOME! And coincidentally, my hand stopped cramping.

Q:  How important is Photoshop in your final images?

A:  Since I like to modify my images, it's an integral part of the finals. I don't always use Photoshop though... it's just a tool, and like all tools, some are better suited for a job than others. But the 'photoshopping' process is essential, whether I'm adding color, changing contrasts, creating a collage, etc... I can't just take a photo and leave it alone... I HAVE to make it my own.

Q:  What is your most used Photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.?

A:  Each photo has its own 'feel', so I'm constantly using diffrent tools, plugins, processes, etc. Even photos from the same session will look different just because I can't do the same thing twice.

Q:  Name one photographer you would like to take a portrait of?

A:  While my uncle was a MAJOR influence for me, I never got to see him work. So it'd have to be him. But it wouldn't be a portrait session... it'd be more of a photojournalistic thing because HE was a photojournalist; I'd photograph him in his element, whether he's taking a photo of someone for an interview or shooting for a story. I wouldn't necessarily want him to just be sitting there, staring at me while I stare at him.

BE SURE TO CHECK OUT HIS WEBSITES: - this is where I post some of my 'shareable' shots. Some are test shots, others are ideas, some are finals, etc. - this is my Model Mayhem page, where some of my better modeling shots go. - this is my 'professional' page. - this is where my 'saleable' shots go. it's mostly landscapes.

Thank you so much Lenny!  


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Would You Like To Come To My Pee Party?

I'm currently still in "draft mode" for my post titled "Searching For Significance", and while writing that heartfelt piece, it brought up a lot of pleasant, silly memories from my childhood that diverted me to this brand new post!  It sucks having 'train of thought Attention Deficit Disorder' sometimes.  Hopefully I can finish this post within the next hour without being interrupted by the need to write a new one... :::sigh:::

This is kind of an embarrassing memory but I figure that since I embarrass myself on a daily basis, I don't mind sharing it with you anyway.  I was a Disney princess junkie as a child and I was on the never-ending quest for my prince and the perfect kiss.  I was on a serious mission to obtain that puffy shouldered dress and that epic, fate-sealing kiss before the old age of five.  I had my sights on this cool kid called Alexander who was the son of my mom's friend.  Too be honest, I have no memory of what he looks like anymore but I'm sure he was handsome for a three year old.  I would do almost anything to impress him.  For instance, did you know that men have an organ on the outside of their body that women lack?  I learned all about that for the first time when I witnessed Alex relieving himself out in the back yard one summer afternoon.  He just pulled down his big boy diaper, aimed and peed all over the fence.  WOW. He was so, so, so cool!  Maybe if I could do that, then I would be cool and then he would fall in love with me and kiss me.  Right?

One day, our moms stepped outside to see what all the ruckus was on the front porch and were not prepared for the sight they were about to behold.  My mother can't help but giggle as she still describes the scene to this day.  There is Alex, being cool with his diaper down around his ankles peeing off the porch.  Here I am, diaper flung off somewhere in the bushes with my leg up like a dog next to his favorite fire hydrant, urinating all over myself.  As I hear the creek of the screen door behind me, I look back unabashed at my mother and exclaim, "We are having a pee party!  Wanna come to the pee party?"

I regret to report to you that I did not win over my prince that day.  As my mother recounts, when I dragged him to the backyard and flung myself on the ground, closed my eyes and demanded that he KISS ME!, he ran off into the sunset in that cute diaper of his with my heart in his hands.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Reaping Last Year's Rewards

I am lucky enough to have a beautiful kitchen window that faces south.  I didn't realize how desired this was until a few friends commented on how they pined for it.  I had never given much thought as to why it would matter or how I would benefit from it, but I figured I should take advantage of it at the very least.

We were only leasing this home for three years so I didn't want to go too crazy with expensive ideas or anything that would be permanent that the landlords wouldn't care for.  I juggled between wind chimes that would catch the sun or hanging flower baskets.  Then it dawned on me:  Sunflowers!  Sunflowers are one of my favorite flowers and I even had red ones in my wedding bouquet.  Brian (my husband) measured the distance from the ground to the kitchen window and said that I was in luck if I wanted to buy the giant sunflowers because they would bloom directly in from of my window!  He said it was the perfect spot for them since the window was facing south and the flowers would get the perfect amount of sun in order to grow to their full height.  Oh, the excitement! 

Once we went to buy the seeds, I became too distracted by all the other varieties of sunflowers they had to offer.  Big poof-y ones that looked like a bright colored sea urchin to dainty daisy-like breeds.  If memory serves me correctly, I think I bought eight different kinds and not one was the giant mammoth flower.  I swore to Brian that they would still grow tall enough for me to see them outside the window and he just bit his tongue like a good man, knowing in time I would learn my lesson.  He tilled up an eight foot bed and manufactured a darling little picket fence around it and planted our seeds. Well, I learned my lesson.  I did end up with a beautiful conglomeration of sunflowers but I couldn't see them from my kitchen window.  <----Insert sad face here.  I still reaped the rewards from that first yield by experiencing the joy of sharing the flowers with neighbors and filling my home with their cheerful spring colors.

Fast forward to this last summer.  So.  We start all over again.  We pick out our seeds and I bought only the mammoth variety.  We made it out of the store without me giving into my weakness of wanting to buy every other bright and unique version I can find.  Success!   We even had enough seeds leftover to plant a row in our garden which was an added bonus.  I pondered what I would do with these giant flower heads since there were going to be about fifteen of them.  Should I use them for flower bouquets?  Jeez, that would almost be a waste to wait all that time and only have enough to gather two large bouquets for the whole summer.  At that moment, I remembered that I had noticed a larger bird population around our home last winter and I kept a mental note to check and see if the birds were eating the sunflower seeds as a winter treat.  I did a bit of research online and many gardeners recommended to keep the stalks up because the birds will eat the seeds and chit chat with their other bird friends and invite them over for a smorgasbord.  Well, that is exactly what happened!  Not only did we get to enjoy the bright, sunny faces of the sunflowers all summer, but they provided us with endless hours of bliss watching the bountiful varieties of winter birds singing and snacking away at our eye level.  Right outside that charming window that faces south.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Parabens, Propylene glycol, Sodium lauryl sulfates... OH MY!

Everywhere you turn nowadays, whether it is in the grocery store or going down the makeup aisle, you will find organic options.  While growing up I did not quite understand the meaning nor the benefits that went along with organic products and eventually formed an opinion about those who strictly limited themselves to living the organic lifestyle:  they were snobby, uptight rich bitches.  Go ahead and throw the word "hippy" in there as well.  These were people I did not want to associate with.  Those who would not eat my hormone packed chicken or wear just normal deodorant like everyone else.  Then one year I became very ill and my mind was changed forever.

Growing up I was a very busy child.  I was involved in dance and performance theater and I could always rely on getting a horrible cold that would be in conjunction with a sinus infection or bronchitis twice a year, ritually right before performance time.  So there I would be, sitting in my pretty Nutcracker dress, coughing my lungs out on stage like an eighty year old smoker with emphysema.  Not a pretty sight.  It became routine to go into the doctor and have them administer antibiotics.  By the time I was in high school I figured these meds were just your normal "cure all" and sometimes I ended up on antibiotics two to three times a year.  To be honest, I don't remember where I read my first article about the dangers of antibiotics but it sure caused me to get a bug up my butt to start researching.  I set my homework aside and scoured the internet for hours and found a plethora of articles discussing this very topic!  Did you know that antibiotics should always be your last resort and at a maximum should only be taken once a year?  Wow.  I hadn't realized that they also break down your immune system due to killing the good and bad bacteria and you may get to a point where your body can't fight off its own infections, therefore you need to rely on medicine all over again!  I started to become conscious of the fact that even when I got a minor cold it would always take a nasty turn for the worse and it seemed like my body just couldn't fight back anymore.  I was weak and tired all the time and I was only seventeen years old!  I started to notice the  viscous cycle my body was going through due to the overuse of antibiotics and I immediately decided right then and there that I was just going to STOP.  I was going to let my self get sick if need be and even if it took a month, I was going to let my body fight its own battle as it was meant to do and build my precious immune system back up.  So, did it work?

Heck yes it worked!  There was a time when I would take 1000 mg of ibuprofen for any little ache and pain or four tablets of Benadryl to fall asleep at night.  Shortly after I graduated high school I went to a naturopath doctor (The only one on the whole Kitsap peninsula!) who prescribed me Valerian root for anxiety and restlessness.  I bought the molasses version and would stir it in my tea before bed.  It didn't knock me on my tush like I at first expected since I was comparing it to Benadryl or stronger forms of relaxants I had previously abused, but after a week of using it religiously I just felt RELAXED and my mind wasn't running in ten million circles when I was trying to wind down to go to bed.  I didn't feel groggy the next day and I woke up naturally and little by little my life was starting to change for the better.

My eyes were starting to open to the importance of what we put in our bodies and how to properly take care of them.  To be honest, there is so much crap on the market today that just makes me cringe.  Do people not realize that what we put on our skin (ladies!) is absorbed into our body?  You may scoff and roll your eyes you not put lotion on?  You can see it and feel it on your skin when you put it on, so shouldn't you be concerned where it is magically ending up soon thereafter?  Hmm...I wonder where it went.  Oh!  It absorbed into your skin.  Imagine that.  Just like our makeup and deodorant.  I will have to write a short note later about my adventures in "Deodorant Land" and how to find a natural product without smelling like a water buffalo at the end of the day.  I promise to not disappoint on that topic. 

I'm still in the beginning of my organic switchover and my whole life hasn't been entirely affected yet.  Some items I believe are just a waste of money (for my lifestyle at least) like organic cotton q-tips, although I have switched over to organic cotton tampons and pads.   For something that is literally sitting inside of me all day, I can't imagine how my body is processing all those chemicals and fragrances that are in regular tampons.  Ladies, would you spray perfume up there?  Then why on earth would you use tampons with fragrance?!  :::shivers:::  Sorry gentlemen for bringing up such a crude topic, but yes, it is true!  We women DO bleed for days on end and don't die.  It is natural and healthy event so quit grabbing your sides, squirming from side to side and groaning, "Ugh, gross!  Yuck! I don't want to hear about your womanly stuff!"  Let me remind you love our 'womanly stuff' the other three weeks out of the month so quit grimacing please, I'm starting to get offended.

We are a normal young married couple who has a budget like anyone else and I can't just afford to go out an switch everything over to organic, but the little changes I have made, especially with medicinal and food choices, have been very beneficial.  I'm sure I'll be writing more on the topic, especially when it comes to sharing tips and products on how to pamper ourselves naturally from the R.A.W. products line.  (Raw All Natural Products for Women) Don't worry boys...we have a male line for you too.  (R.A.M. Raw All Natural Products for Men)

I have included a short list of some of the common, but nasty!, ingredients in our everyday products that you should look for and research before buying:

  • Parabens (methylparaben, propylparaben, etc.) are skin irritants, disturb your hormonal balance, are potential mutagens and have been found in breast cancer tumors. (page 118) They are commonly found in shampoos, conditioners, lotions and deodorants.
  • Propylene glycol is a strong irritant, may cause delayed allergic reactions, kidney, liver, nervous system damage, and has not been fully investigated for its potential to cause cancer. (page 128) Check your makeup, deodorant, mouthwash, shaving lotions and baby lotion for this ingredient.  
  • Fragrance may irritate the skin and cause a variety of adverse reactions. It may contain hundreds of different chemicals, some are hazardous, some cause cancer. (page 88) This is found in just about all cosmetics and personal care products, unless it says fragrance free. See page 21 to discover what fragrance free really means.
  • Sodium fluoride is a poison and its toxic effects can be delayed. It can cause death if swallowed. (page 135) Check your toothpaste. Unless it says fluoride free, it most likely has some form of fluoride in it. 
  • Octyl methoxycinnamate is a skin and eye irritant. It disrupts your hormone balance and has been shown to increase the growth of cancer cells. (page 115) Used in makeup, suntan lotions and sunscreens.
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate is a skin and eye irritant, and may cause dry skin and eczema. It is a potential mutagen and may inhibit DNA synthesis. (page 136) It is found in shampoos, bubble bath, lotions, creams, and toothpaste.
  • D&C colors are primarily derived from coal tar which is known to cause cancer. They are certified by the FDA not to contain more than 20 ppm of lead and arsenic, but the certification does not address any adverse effects these colors may have on your body and disregards the permeability of the skin which allows these substances to be absorbed into your body. (page 70) Commonly used to add color to most commercial cosmetics and personal care products.
  • FD&C colors are primarily derived from coal tar which is known to cause cancer. They are certified by the FDA not to contain more than 10 ppm of lead and arsenic, but the certification does not address any adverse effects these colors may have on your body. (page 86) Added to most cosmetics and personal care products for color.
  •  (I copied this list from

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Blogging...for the diary-inept type.

Hmmm...I think I'll write later. Time for some kava kava tea so I can ponder what I should post first.