SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan: Blog https://www.slyfocal.com/blog en-us Shawn P Keenan (SlyFocal.com) shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) Fri, 15 Jul 2022 05:58:00 GMT Fri, 15 Jul 2022 05:58:00 GMT https://www.slyfocal.com/img/s/v-12/u611167638-o708621480-50.jpg SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan: Blog https://www.slyfocal.com/blog 120 80 Shapes - Find Their Influence In My New Black And White Gallery https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2022/7/shapes-bw  

Shapes. They define our visual existence and even hold keys to our emotions. Did you know a circle can inspire your sense of community or eternity, a curve will inspire calm and a line can inspire reliability? So what happens when I sell you an image like you see here? You gain part of the experience; the organic symphony of lines, shapes and dimensions that I brought to you through my lens. And when they come out in black and white, you get to concentrate on one of the most important, most interesting parts of the visual life that created that image; shapes.

 

Visit the Black And White Gallery

 

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) and art black bw image light line photography shape white https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2022/7/shapes-bw Fri, 15 Jul 2022 01:28:37 GMT
The Head Tilt https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2022/7/the-head-tilt  

 

If you find yourself tilting your head and saying "Whaaaaaaat?", then I'm doing something right. That's art.  And from the moment I start having fun with the camera, to the moment when the viewer's mind becomes saturated with curiosity; if I can take you away from normal, even for a just a minute, I'm doing my job as an artist. And here's some good news; you can even take that moment with you. See my abstract gallery for more fun with trying to figure things out: 
 

Abstract Gallery

 

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Related podcast: 

Art is a Process, not a Product

Real art; a process that takes courage and vision. Let go of criticism and just create.

 

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) abstract art curious image odd photography https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2022/7/the-head-tilt Thu, 07 Jul 2022 13:00:00 GMT
New Pacific Northwest Gallery https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2022/6/new-pacific-northwest  

 

The Pacific Northwest; after seven years in the area came a departure that deeply changed my life forever. I will always miss living there and I will always miss the absolutely amazing natural wonders. From Seattle to Mount Rainier, Tillamook to St. Helens; there will never be a shortage of beauty and wonder. See just some of what I captured in my new Pacific Northwest gallery. Enjoy! 

 

Pacific Northwest Gallery

 

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Also see the American Southwest Gallery and the American Midwest Gallery

 

And see the latest podcast, turned into a video called: Why Do I Want This Thing? (Click link for bigger version)


 

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) america art beach image lighthouse needle northwest ocean oregon pacific photography sea seattle sky space sunset tillamook washington https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2022/6/new-pacific-northwest Wed, 29 Jun 2022 01:56:44 GMT
Real Art VS Manufactured https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2022/6/real-art-vs-manufactured  

What kicked off this article 

I was talking to my little girl a few days back about real art vs the manufactured stuff. Yesterday she brought it back up again and BAM(!!!), the kid got it!

 

Dune Cave GirlDune Cave Girl

 

Our discussions applied to all types of art, but were mainly centered around music because we are a guitarring, clarinetting, vocalizing, musical family (yes they're words now). 

I explained how, in music, you can often hear the difference between lyrics and riffs that are "safe". Anyone can relate to them. Safe lyrics and musical sounds are the ones that can be written in seconds, like:

 

"When you're feeling sad and low
We will take you where you gotta go
Smiling, dancing, everything is free
All you need is positivity"

 

They are a novelty, always accompanied by schtick and quickly forgotten by the crowds shortly after they rise to the top of the charts. 

 

Then there are lyrics and instrumentals that need interpretation, like:

 

"Ooh, firefly in the night sky
Only lights on the rise
And I need you so firefly

One satellite with a lazy eye
Caught me by surprise
With an ache in my belly
And a taste in my mouth for fire"

From: Over The Rhine - Firefly (see end of article)

 

Lyrics like Firefly and the musical riffs that go with them are time consuming. But, because they come from the soul and spirit of the musician, they are warmly engaging and create a lasting bond between the artist and the listener. like any good relationship between anyone and anyone or anything, the connections that take the most work are the ones that draw us into the tightest bonds.

 

Turbine Blade Bolts BWTurbine Blade Bolts BW

 

Any art is like this. From photos, to sculptures, to a blog article and beyond. There's the imitation, created for the purpose of money and celebrity status. And then there is the art that comes from the deepest reaches of how we became who we are today. One was never worth the time it took to think it up. The other is something that will affect us even after we leave these bodies. 

So when you invest your senses into anything that goes on your wall, your shelf or into your headphones; next time think about taking the road that brings a return on your investment. Put down the imitation. Fill the moment with artistry. 

 

Related stuff


Related Video: Why Do I Want This Thing?

 

 

The piece of art mentioned above: 

 

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) art child music photography real https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2022/6/real-art-vs-manufactured Tue, 21 Jun 2022 20:10:18 GMT
American Midwest and American Southwest https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2022/6/american-midwest-southwest America; full of natural and human-made wonders. Both the midwest and the southwest offer their own brands of spectacular! Over many years, I've been capturing the beauty of each area. Now you can grab some of those images from both my American Southwest and American Midwest galleries. Enjoy! 

 

American Southwest Gallery:

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American Midwest Gallery:

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) America art image Midwest photography sky Southwest https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2022/6/american-midwest-southwest Tue, 21 Jun 2022 01:45:10 GMT
Light As A Medium https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2022/6/medium  

 

If you ask me what my most valued medium of art is. personally, I'd say it's light (even though I love to use sound to podcast). As a photographer, light is the substance I work with most. In fact, I can't do my job without it. Every image that enters my lens is brought to you by those playful, little photons that bounce off the subject and into my camera. The concept just blows me away.

 

FerrisFerris

 

Light dances across our skin, but we don't always feel it. It obliterates darkness. It holds fast to our surroundings, helping us engage with our world and the people we love. It holds a dual purpose, bringing both the abstract and physical worlds together at the same time and place. So in my own spirit; being privileged enough to play with it, as an artist and a portrait photographer, it's sometimes quite mind blowing and even just downright fun. 

 

Burner Fire FaceBurner Fire Face

 

Cloud Bow BCloud Bow B

 

From Sun Halos to moonlit Buttes; fireworks to Ferris wheels; any moment I work with a unique view of the world is a great one. Any time it delivers inspiration to the viewer, even better. And when I can deliver it in my gallery, specifically called: "Light and Fire", I just get a bit giddy. 

So check it out and if it makes you feel all lit up inside... glad I did my job. 

 

SamplesSamplesScreenshot

 

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) art fire image light photography sky https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2022/6/medium Fri, 03 Jun 2022 23:42:50 GMT
Perspective https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2022/5/perspective  

 

Standing on a playground this past Saturday, again I was asked: "What's your favorite type of photography?" I get this question constantly from clients, acquaintances and friends. The first things out of my mouth are usually about my favorite lens; my macro. It's a lens that lets me zoom in on something so far that it becomes a mystery. It allows me to make everyday objects look extraordinary. And when a person tilts their head in curiosity and says: "Whaaaaaaa?", then I know I've done my job. Here's an example:

 

Light Squares BWLight Squares BWLight Squares BW

 

The above image is just a light fixture that hung over a desk in a hotel lobby. So why would I ever care about it enough to represent it in such a way, or why would I want to buy something like it? Because there is so much of our world that we miss, and I believe it's a tragedy. The light fixture itself is quite compelling when you view it this way, but that's not really the point. What I like my viewers to know is that every piece of our existence; from the molecules in our skin, to the universe we occupy; it's all something we can zoom in and out of. It's all something we can learn and grow from. For an art creator like me and a viewer like you, that realization can start with what could just be a simple photo. 

 

Blue WaveBlue WaveBlue Wave - Shawn Patrick Keenan
So what in the world is this? It's actually just the bottom of a blue, glass mixing bowl and here's how I caught it: by being a night owl. I love being up late (and kinda have to be because I take care of my little girl during the day.) Because I'm also an insomniac, I was unintentionally awake one early morning. Sloughing through my kitchen, bushy eyed; I winced over at the sunrise that was creeping through the curtains and under this bright, blue, glass bowl. That's when I saw the image in my mind's eye and how it would finally look on screen. So I ran and grabbed my camera and, a few minutes later, I had the shot above (now rotated 90 degrees.) It's long since been one of my personal favorites.

 

Check these out:

 

Glowing Marbles BlueGlowing Marbles BlueGlowing Marbles Blue - Shawn Patrick Keenan  A fire pit. 

 

Filament CFilament CFilament C - Shawn Patrick Keenan A light bulb.

 

Glowing Angel AGlowing Angel AGlowing Angel A - Shawn Patrick Keenan A child's toy (actual size; about the size of a quarter).

 

Glowing LinesGlowing LinesGlowing Lines - Shawn Patrick Keenan

Glow sticks in a vase. 

 

Light Fixture BLight Fixture BLight Fixture B - Shawn Patrick Keenan

Get the modded version of this on a shirt or other products: 
 

A Soul Determined - ShirtA Soul DeterminedA Soul Determined - Shirt

 

When we realize there are many commonalities between well, everything and everything; we can look at an image like this and see parts of ourselves and everything else around us. That gives us a bigger perspective and, it's just one more reason to invest in a piece of art. 

 

Related media

 

Why do I want this thing?

A video that speaks about the funnel effect of art and it's value to both the creator and the viewer. 

 

 

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) angel art bulb everyday extraordinary glowing hope image light macro marble perspective photography rainbow universe zoom https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2022/5/perspective Wed, 01 Jun 2022 01:41:36 GMT
Don't Let Art Die https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2022/2/dont-let-art-die     

Art is the only subject in life that we can't fail. Without it, we and our children lose roots that flourish into success, in any part of life.

 

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More podcasts


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See image in its gallery

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) art child family kid photography rights school https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2022/2/dont-let-art-die Tue, 08 Feb 2022 04:07:02 GMT
Art is a Process, not a Product https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2022/2/art-is-a-process-not-a-product Real art; a process that takes courage and vision. Let go of criticism and just create.

 

Powered by RedCircle

 

 

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) art artistic creative creativity over produced painting photography podcast producer sculpture the man https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2022/2/art-is-a-process-not-a-product Wed, 02 Feb 2022 22:23:36 GMT
How to be an Artist https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2021/7/how-to-be-an-artist What started this

I've been asked more than once to explain exactly how I compose my shots/ set up my rig for specific shots. Truth is, I'm not sure if I can't say or if I just don't want to; because the moment you start doing what someone else does, you're not creating, you're just copying. There are acceptable times and places for that, but it's more rare and most of the time it's just theft. Unfortunately it happens a lot in this day and age. 

My advice for artistic growth 

The best advice I can give you if you're looking to build your own, is to build on to your own.
 

Flowing LinesFlowing Lines

 

You have a choice; you can compare your work to the work of others and adapt their techniques into your design, or you can take a more beautifully, independent path; one that offers more fun and satisfaction. The way I do it is this; I admire other artist's work, but I usually don't pick it apart. The only artist's work I look at in a thoroughly critical way, is mine.

 

Each time I take a photo, write an article, cook a meal, make a video or write a song; I think about what I've done in the past and then use my only rule to building my art; either try one new technique or improve on an old one. It takes time, but it never fails. The more I do it, the better I get. And part of what makes art fun is that I never know what the results are going to be until I see the final product. It constantly breathes new life into my own experience and keeps my art from going stale. 

 

Canyon Looking Up CCanyon Looking Up C

Final thought 

The right way to be an artist doesn't come from a class on how to use a piece of software. It doesn't come from popularity. An artist is not made by the money or attention they may generate. An artist is made right there in the moment when the creation begins to take shape and a decision is made; "Do I want to push myself into a mold, or do I want to open up my own heart and soul and pour it into what I create?" One is just craft. The other is art. 

Thanks for reading :) 

 

Want more? 
 

Check out: 

 

 

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) art artist artistic become create photography https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2021/7/how-to-be-an-artist Thu, 08 Jul 2021 11:53:59 GMT
How a Toddler sees the Need for Privacy (and more images coming) https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2019/7/toddler-privacy Hello all,

I've not forgotten about my portfolio, but the full-time Daddy/caregiver job and a few other projects have taken my work here to a new level of "Oh _____, I'm still a photographer!". There is more in the plan, hopefully coming soon. I have a lot of new images that are due for processing, copyrighting and posting. Until then, here is a fun sample of why my photography work has been slowed to a crawl... 

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) child dad family funny humor kid privacy toddler video https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2019/7/toddler-privacy Tue, 16 Jul 2019 21:33:06 GMT
How a Toddler Does a Sound Check https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2019/1/how-a-toddler-does-a-sound-check Hello! 

It's been a while since I've published anything here. I've been pouring my effort into my newer venture Getting to God. I know Faith based stuff is not for everyone, but from it came this non-preachy, funny little video of my little girl helping me do a sound check and video setup. Check it out...

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) audio check child family fun funny Humor kid parent sound toddler https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2019/1/how-a-toddler-does-a-sound-check Wed, 09 Jan 2019 05:06:40 GMT
3 Easy Steps for Composing Great Shots https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/7/composing-great-shots Why care about how I compose my images? 

I know what a lot of people might think. "I don't really care. I just want the memories of each event. They don't have to be artsy-fartsy. If I want art I'll go buy a bunch of stuff from SlyFocal.com." ;) Or maybe you just don't have the confidence to try to be more artistic with your shots. That's fine because, while I'm now a published artist who tends to have great feedback, my first artistic images were terrible, nothing but experimentation. 

The point of improved shooting for the average person is this; how often we take out or display those memories can depend partly on how well they're shot. We're drawn more into photos that have a sense of care about the details. Those who we share our pictures with are also drawn to the same kind of effort. Therefore, diving upward onto a bit of a new learning curve will bring more interest, more depth and more emotion to the moments we look back on our memories.

As with any new process we learn, we will overcome the curve which will leave us with more subconscious skill. A little continued experimentation = better images with little or no thought. By taking a bit of extra time when we shoot, and I mean only a handful of seconds, we can add more life to the moments we treasure.

You might even find yourself a new hobby as an artist, because, as we realize we're getting better at something, we tend to enjoy it more. 

Fine, I'll give it a try

Wonderful! I recommend a slow motion dive-in here, as in, try one technique until you're comfortable with it, then add another. When you're comfortable with two of them, add the last one. 

1. Fill the Frame

The first and easiest; zoom or get up close when you can. Filling your frame with your subject can dramatically improve the level of interest in your shot. When your subject is larger, there is less room for distracting elements, things you and your viewers will likely not care about when reviewing the image. 

Compare the next two shots of the train. In the first, there are a lot of elements that are unnecessary, like boring automobiles, a crane and a bunch of leafless trees. 

 

The second, by far not my best work, but still an example of a better framed shot than the last one. 

2. Play with angles

I could have shot the following lighthouse straight on, from a distance, but it wouldn't have been as fun or creative for me. So, instead I slowly worked my way around the building, kept checking the shot with my eyes, then got right next to the lighthouse wall and shot it at an upward angle. 

Lighthouse Blue BLighthouse Blue B

The following image was shot from down low. I lowered the tripod down as far as it would go, then aimed the camera upward and turned it a bit so it was not parallel with the wall. 

Wukoki Pueblo Open Room (Vertical)Wukoki Pueblo Open Room (Vertical)

3. Make the frame part of your photo

Think about the frame in the camera viewfinder. Pay attention to the corners and the length of each line around the frame.

 

Pick just one aspect of the subject you're shooting, maybe it's the length of a line in the subject, or a certain object.

In the following image, I picked the small window in the wall and chose to almost center it in relation to the outer lines in the frame. The hole is about centered both horizontally and vertically. 

Wukoki Pueblo RoomWukoki Pueblo Room

You can also use the frame as if it's part of the image. Work the lines of your subject into the lines of the frame. As with the above photo, I chose to make the lines where the walls join up, come down into the bottom corners of the frame. 

In the picture below, I started by placing the upper, left part of the balloon into the upper, left corner of the frame, then for an artistic twist, I offset it downward just a bit. I also placed the lower part of the balloon into the lower, right corner of the frame. 

Hot Air Balloon Closeup CHot Air Balloon Closeup C

I did almost the same thing with the baby's arm and inner leg, below, using the upper, right corner of the frame as a resting point for her arm... and the lower right corner of the frame for her inner, lower leg. 

Baby BWBaby BW

So that's it!

Have fun because, as I said in another article, Everyone is an Artist. Now go out and prove it!  

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) how to take better photos image improve memories photo photography photography tips picture https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/7/composing-great-shots Sat, 21 Jul 2018 03:54:39 GMT
The art of Parenting, (Also, Happy Father's Day) https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/6/the-art-of-parenting In a previous article I wrote, Everyone is an Artist, I discussed how we all create art even when we don't realize it. We work as creators through every day situations, like setting up business deals, being social or decorating a home. And now for this, my second Father's Day, I've decided to send out a big cheers(!) too everyone with a small human attachment. Why? Because I'm an artist and raising a kid is an art.

How does this happen? 

Just kidding. I'm not actually going to explain that. 

How is raising a child an art?

Don't get me wrong, there is some science to it... Feed, repeat. Smell poop, change, repeat (sorry, it's necessary.). Scraped knee, wash, apply dressing, repeat. That's where the very small manual comes in. And the rest? You gotta stumble, walk, fumble, then stumble some more until the parental artist in you becomes proficient in simple word usage, funny face making and the teaching of discipline. 

Every single moment is a potentially new experience to a child. Each second of those moments can take a gazillion different turns. You have to analyze each situation, then shape every line and curve until you have the best experience you can create. That’s an art. 

That skill is needed around every corner, every day, from meal times to entering the water at bath time… getting the little one into the car seat to arranging a drawer full of a child’s clothing. 

Baby BWBaby BW

What does it take?

First and foremost, being a Dad, a parent with the other bodily configuration or a caregiver takes both patience and understanding. As a former Early Childhood Educator, I’ve worked with hundreds of children and families closely. I’m well aware of how it feels to be an adult, guiding a situation with a child. Mood, earlier events, inside and outside influences, they can quickly shift the direction we take when working with a small human. Therefore, constantly speaking and acting from a place of calm and compassion is almost always a challenge. 

When we feel like being angry, we have to have the strength and vision to reshape that feeling (see more about how to do that). As any parent or caregiver knows or will know, it doesn’t always work. Like any person does, as teachers we fail sometimes. Watching over a child feels like the need for sainthood and yet we just end up being human. 

One day we’re what we used to be, responsible for just ourselves, only brushing one set of teeth and bathing one body. The next day brings a new world full of diapers, feedings and deprivation of sleep and other useful activities (Dad, I’ll give your sleep deprived brain a second on that one). Our sense of timing, completely thrown. Our sense of self, completely revamped. Our sense of protection, raised to unparalleled heights. 

In other words, to guide a child through this world takes a mind blowing amount of change, energy and selflessness. 

What’s it worth to be a Dad (or Mom, or caregiver)? 

Everything. 

I’m certainly not one of those people who believes you have to raise a child to have a meaningful life. Everyone can contribute to forward, positive, communal movement, with our without a small one in tow. But what I also know is a new kind of fulfillment that I couldn’t have imagined at a time when I assumed I would never have children. 

My little girl is now seventeen months old. She’s changed who I am and who I want to be. I’ve been a writer for years. I could write an entire book about how I feel about her and still only scratch the surface. Her care takes something from me every single moment I exist. Sleep gets lost, items get broken, ears ring and 2.4 hairs go grey every hour. But for every one thing she takes (that I now consider trivial), she gives back 100 that bring energy, light and a love that’s beyond human language. 

How do we cope with this new responsibility?

  • Breathing. It’s simple, but true… loooooots of deep breaths. 
  • Education, self or otherwise. Books, classes, conversations, blogs.  
  • Sacrifice, but with the right goggles on, the rewards always look much bigger than what we give up to get them.
  • Compassion. Children explore, there’s no way around it. They break stuff to learn, not to anger. They test boundaries to gain self discipline, not to frustrate. They mess up the room to figure out their environment, not to cause problems. They cry out of hurt and need, not for annoyance.
  • Help. We all have limits. Any one of us can find them broken. 
  • Strength. As a parent you'll find strengths you never knew you had. Pushing through sleep loss, completing tasks while holding the little one, becoming a protector, these are just a few of the many. 

Baby Hand BWBaby Hand BW

Conclusion. 

Congratulations Dad on this Father’s day. Congratulations to all who help raise a child. You’re officially an artist working in the medium called life.  Every time you give a kind word to the child, grab that little hand out of love or wash that little head, you do something worth writing an article about. Every second you put into one child’s future changes everyone else’s, forever. 

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) birth born care caregiver child children dad day family father father's gift kid kids mom mother parent pregnancy pregnant raise young https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/6/the-art-of-parenting Sun, 17 Jun 2018 05:09:03 GMT
The Art of Calm https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/6/the-art-of-calm The general level of stress among our communities is steadily climbing. This isn't just a local phenomena tucked into a few select corners of the planet. Everyone can feel the pressure of negative behavior that's shoveled out by groups as small as one, as large as billions. Know it or not, the negativity of one entity affects everyone on a global scale. Information about how to be a balanced person does exist, but in general it's withheld and hidden, partially by intention, partially by mistake. In any case, the issues we face are intricate. That means the breakdown of systems built on poor behavior takes time because the solutions also need to be intricate. 

ThermalThermal

Is there anything we can do right now? 

Of course we have to chase bad behavior. Let me be clear... the best solutions involve destroying bad behavior through education, not destroying people. But until those seemingly far off days arrive, there are immediate solutions that can help just about anyone. And before you start thinking "You don't know my situation buddy!", let me explain where I'm coming from. I won't give all the details, but I will tell you I either deal with, or have dealt with, serious chronic pain, financial crisis to the point of losing almost everything, near homelessness and a slew of other chronic stresses that are often difficult for others to imagine. So when I tell you that we all have the ability to bring calm into our lives, no matter what, I'm completely aware of how impossible that can feel. And yet I've done it through goal-oriented vision, an unshakable belief that there's always a way and sheer stubborn headed will.

Canyon Rainbow BCanyon Rainbow B

Why would I call "Calm" an art? 

Anything that is not done by a formula is basically art. Because there is no formula for stress relief that fits every single person, each plan has to have it's own creator. And that's not all. Every moment offers a new twist on the last. Every stressor has it's own time of arrival and it's own environment. Therefore, we have to twist, turn, roll and duck with awareness, intention and individuality. In the same way a conventional artist wields a paintbrush to shape a painting, the emotion-induced human has to use breathing and self control techniques to reshape their thoughts. 

Easier said than done! 

Definitely easier said than done, especially the first few tries. Unfortunately the alternative is to keep letting stress overtake you. It ends up inducing chemicals in the brain and body that cause damage, shorten life span and kill positive moods. 

The good news... practicing the techniques of being calm are like driving. At first it's a slippery, nail-biting learning curve. "Oh no, I forgot what to do when I see that street sign?", "How many car lengths between me and the next driver?" or, "I just passed a cop. Oh $#!!, was I doing something wrong???" (That last one may never wear off.). After a while things like stopping at stop signs, yielding when it's called for and using a parking brake become second nature. The same thing applies to techniques used to calm the self, except they bring relief instead of causing stress. 

Details, give me details. 

I'll jump right in. The following is a list of ways you can help calm yourself in any situation. My suggestion, pick one, do it for a few days or weeks until it's easy to remember, then add another. The more you engage on a regular basis, the more "Obie-Wan Kenobi" you'll become. Ol' Ben will be proud of you and you'll feel more like leaf in a stream than a stop light in a hurricane. 

Tide PoolTide Pool

Use your breath

The most basic, easy, memorable and private way to calm yourself is deep breathing. As trite as it may sound, it works and there are some very technical and proven reasons to do this. First off, let's look at how to do it. There are several ways and if you go to your favorite search engine and type something like, "breathing techniques for relaxation" you'll find many. 

My favorite for general calming effect is to take a slow, deep breath through the nose, 2-3 seconds in, then slowly breathe out through the mouth, 2-3 seconds out. One reason I like this one, it's because you can do it in public and most people won't know you're doing it. The benefits include being more calm, detoxification, natural pain relief, more mental clarity, better sleep and more. Do this at least once or twice a day for between 5 and 20 minutes. 

Bonus points

  • Concentrate on everything about your breathing, not just the timing. Think about how the air feels when it enters and exits your airways and lungs. Remind yourself that you're breathing in, then remind yourself that you're breathing out as you're doing each one. This engages the brain with the activity and helps control and calm your mind, giving you at least a bit of time to take some focus away from causes of stress. 
  • While breathing in, imagine you're breathing in something positive, something you can use more of. While breathing out, imagine breathing out something negative, something you can use less of. This might sound crazy, but it adds more control to your mood. I like to imagine I'm breathing in things like strength, tolerance or calm, then breathing out things like anger or ignorance. 

Tactile help

Physical sensation can often be calming. You can go big, like getting a massage or sitting in a hot tub. But, unless you're a cartoon, massage tables and hot tubs don't fit in your driver's seat or your classroom chair. Therefore I'll offer one very easy, simple thing that helps me, and, like the breathing technique it can be done almost unnoticeably. Just take the end of any finger and slowly, lightly rub it in circles around the end of your thumb on the same hand. Do this for at least a couple of minutes, at least once or twice a day. More is better.

Bonus points

Research shows that each finger has an attachment to a different part of the body. Therefore, rotating and rubbing each finger may be beneficial.

Let it pass through you

This is one of the most profound, yet simple and definitely more challenging techniques. Be aware of the stressor, but let it pass through you. In other words, pay attention to the fact that it's there, just long enough to know it. Then, immediately stop concentrating on it and give your focus to other things.

Bonus points

You can imagine the bothersome issue as something fluid, like water or smoke that can flow through or around you. 

Massaging the palms

Baby Hand BWBaby Hand BW

This one is easy and carries all sorts of benefits including better circulation, headache relief and a general calming effect. Gently massage the palm of one hand with the thumb of the other. Work all areas for at least 5-10 seconds each. 

Bonus points.

  • For specific headache relief, find the most tender part of your hand between the thumb and forefinger. Gently pinch and hold the area with the thumb and forefinger of your other hand while you take a few slow, deep breaths. Next, do the same on the other hand. 
  • Roll a golf ball between your palms for a few minutes while deeply and slowly breathing. You can also use one hand to work while rolling the ball with your palm against a desk or table top. To be more quiet, you can get ahold of a firm, rubber or foam ball.   

Where and when

These skills are not just good for calming yourself in tough moments. They're also good prevention. We usually don't realize a stressor is just around the corner until it's finally right in our faces. Studies show that, every-day, seemingly innocent things can cause us elevated levels of stress. Take your home or work computer and communication system, for just one example. The EMF's (Electromagnetic fields) that come from computer monitors, cell phones, WiFi routers and cell towers have been proven to induce stress and even put people into fight or flight mode. The foods we eat, water we drink and lots of other environmental factors can also contribute to elevated levels of stress. This means that we're often more close to the edge than we realize. It also means that our bodies and minds are being worn down at an accelerated level.  

The point? It's hugely beneficial to use anti-stress techniques any time of day. Reducing stress is important whether your personal skies are bright and blue, partly cloudy or when you're watching your hair turn grey (the ones that you're not pulling out).

Canyon Looking Up CCanyon Looking Up C

Practice makes perfect

Any new skill has the potential to be put on the shelf shortly after a failed test run. The good news when it comes to self calming is that these techniques have been tried and true for countless years, decades, even millennia. Keep in mind, today's stressors are intricate issues that have taken a lot of time and steps to create. Therefore, calming them in our own minds can also take many steps and a lot of practice. But there's more good news. Simply trying these things can bring relief, even at a beginner's pace. Once you get one technique down you'll have a solid tool. Each tool you add helps build an artist's kit, one that can be carried any place, any time. There's nothing to buy or carry and there are no negative side effects. 

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) breathe breathing calm easy heal health peace relax relief rest sooth stress tranquil unwind https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/6/the-art-of-calm Thu, 14 Jun 2018 23:34:44 GMT
New images! https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/5/new-images Hello all! 

Here are the latest. You don't have to be into religion to appreciate all of them, but they were all taken at the TMBCC (Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center) in Bloomington, IN, USA.

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) bloomington buddha buddhist culture divine holy indiana mongolia mongolian pray prayer religion religious soul spirit spiritual spiritualism supernatural symbol tibet tibetan tmbcc worship https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/5/new-images Mon, 07 May 2018 22:17:06 GMT
New Images in Nature Gallery! Page Arizona/ Lake Powell https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/2/new-images-in-nature-gallery-page-powell Hello subscribers, 

I've finally received my permit to post my images from Lake Powell, Page Arizona. These are some of my all time favorites! Find these and 11 more in the Nature gallery

God SkyGod Sky Canyon Looking Up CCanyon Looking Up C Canyon Looking Up ACanyon Looking Up A   Stacks above Lake (Vertical)Stacks above Lake (Vertical) Rock Wall Over Water (Vertical)Rock Wall Over Water (Vertical)

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) antelope antelope canyon antelope point arch arizona boat canyon cloud curve formation lake lake powell natural nature page page arizona rock scene scenic sky stone travel wake water wave https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/2/new-images-in-nature-gallery-page-powell Sat, 17 Feb 2018 23:58:07 GMT
Artist's Favorite Images - Meteor Crater (Arizona) https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/2/artists-favorite-meteor-crater  

Updated: July 7, 2022

 

This article was a tough start for me, mainly because it's not easy to put my experience at Meteor Crater into words. Take a look...

Meteor Crater (Horizontal)Meteor Crater (Horizontal)  

To give you an idea of how big this crater is, there is a life-sized cut out of an astronaut at the bottom, in the center. There is also a mine entrance. Good luck making visual sense of either of them without a telescope. 

We sort of fell into this (pun intended)

While on an unexpected road trip across the country, my family and I were allowing lots of room for unplanned stops. We hadn't had a single vacation in the previous nine years and we were exhausted from agonizing over many, recent life-changing decisions. Having been through an unreasonable amount of challenge, we just kind of threw our hands in the air, figuring an unplanned trip couldn't end up being worse that what we'd already been through. So with a 10 month old baby girl in tow (gladly), we set off to chase the promise of a new life while empowering my photography portfolio.

Our electronic guide (GPS) was constantly hanging off the windshield, but was second to our main travel companion. In other words, we let God throw up the arrows and signs from day to day. I take a risk in saying that, but the truth is we ended up seeing some seriously amazing things. We simply did not have the insight to purposefully land in so many unusual situations. This was our first road trip as adults (and one as a baby). We felt the strong, "right place, right time" effect, moment after moment of the entire trip. Check out the images at the end of the article for more about that. 

Before this personally groundbreaking trip, I'd seen Meteor Crater time after time as an armchair traveler, on television that is. I always thought it would be a cool place to see for myself, but had totally forgotten about it by the time this trip started unfolding.

So here we were, sort of randomly trekking across Arizona, looking for a city to stay in. So when our next travel break came, we decided to stay in Flagstaff, but planned to only use it as a stopover for a night or two. As usual, we figured, why not do a little research and see if the area had anything to offer. Surprise! Right place, right time... again! Among many other close-by, unique sites like ruins and parks, I searched the net and found Meteor Crater. It took me a minute, but a flood of memories about the footage and images I'd seen of this crater came tumbling into place. It was immediately placed on our bucket list. 

 

Our experience at Meteor Crater

The drive out and back was very nice. I'm a fan of desert landscaping, so I had lots of photo opportunities. Thank God for a patient family. Spend a day with a photographer who sets off to work. You'll get my drift quickly, or painfully slowly if you mind stoping every inch to grab a few images. 

Arrival at the crater was not terribly exciting. You can't see the crater from the parking lot, but there was some sneaking anticipation as we saw people climbing up the sides, via stairs that is (there's also an elevator).

And then came the first vantage point, which changed the experience, dramatically...

Meteor Crater (Vertical)Meteor Crater (Vertical)

You can get amazing views and stroll through the visitor's center without taking the tour. So, at first, for us, taking the tour was questionable. But we decided to give it a go, and by the time we stepped out on the tour-only path and heard the guide start speaking, "questionable" was knocked out of the park, as information about the crater started flooding in. It was pretty amazing to hear about the speed and brute-force energy of the impact. In a stream of interesting facts came more jaw-dropping bits of info, like the distance of the debris field and the width and depth of the crater itself. We also heard explanations about a lower mine, storage areas around the site and an old abandoned home...

Chimney and SkyChimney and Sky

At one point, our guide talked about a previous plane crash. The pilot was not prepared, having too much fuel and not enough power to climb out after dipping down under the ridge. And that moment triggered another, rather ironic, right-place-and-time moment... 

No Fly ZoneNo Fly Zone

Our tour guide had just been talking about the serious danger in flying an aircraft above or in Meteor Crater. So, seeing a plane fly directly over it brought a perfect moment for the guide to get the whole crowd laughing. All he had to do was mention how the space above Meteor Crater was officially deemed a No-Fly zone, sarcastically emphasizing the words "no fly". It was also a perfect moment for me to catch the above shot and name it, of course: "No Fly Zone".  

 

Another side of the experience

There was something on the spiritual end of the spectrum in our visit here, something hard to explain. It may have been the power it took to create the crater, or something about the energy left at the site. Every line, every rock, every thing held its own story about the moment of impact. For me, it was easy to imagine the sounds and sights of that moment. Our tour guide and a video show at the visitor's center also helped illustrate the event. And that wasn't all. Throw in one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen and my family and I had yet another unexpected gift, neatly packaged, gladly accepted.

There were other interesting things to see on the tour as well... 

Rock Tower and CloudsRock Tower and Clouds

Rocks and Con TrailsRocks and Con Trails   The RavenThe Raven

Conclusion

I highly recommend visiting Meteor Crater. Images can't quite represent the feeling you get from standing on the edge of one of the most unique, grand features on earth. It didn't feel like a tourist trap to me. It was an entire experience and very well done by the staff that run the grounds. 

More of the American Southwest in the American Southwest Gallery
 

CollageCollage

 

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More right place and time moments from our road trip:

Article: Artist's Favorite Images, Page, Arizona, Balloon Regatta and Fire Display

Burner Fire FaceBurner Fire Face Burner Fire Old QuarterBurner Fire Old Quarter   Balloon by StacksBalloon by Stacks

Article: Artist's Favorite Images, Scum of The Earth Church

Light OrbitLight OrbitThis image was shot at a church. Curious? I would be. See the entire story here. Bike (Color)Bike (Color)This image was shot at a church. Curious? I would be. See the entire story here. Stained LampStained LampThis image was shot at a church. Curious? I would be. See the entire story here.

Article: Artist 's Favorite Images, Canyon Rainbow by Shawn P Keenan

Canyon Rainbow CCanyon Rainbow CFound in Cortez Colorado. See the story of how it was shot here. Canyon Rainbow BCanyon Rainbow BFound in Cortez Colorado. See the story of how it was shot here.

Images:

Bighorn StarsBighorn Stars Willow Sunrise (Vertical)Willow Sunrise (Vertical)   Cows Under Sunsunset BCows Under Sunsunset B  

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) abyss arizona asteroid bang bowl caldera circle cloud collision comet crater depression desert dip hollow impact landscape meteor meteor crater meteorite meteoroid opening pit rock shock sky stone winslow https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/2/artists-favorite-meteor-crater Sun, 04 Feb 2018 01:24:38 GMT
Artist's Favorite Images, Angel in the Fireworks https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/1/angel-in-the-fireworks Angel in the FireworksAngel in the FireworksA few, small adjustments were made, like brightness and contrast, but the subject and content in this image were NOT altered. This was not photoshopped. What you see is what the camera saw as I held the shutter open for 1.6 seconds.

"Angel in the Fireworks"

Where and when?

This image was shot during a July 4th celebration at Lake Santee, Greensburg, Indiana 2017. 

How was this done?

The image was created by simply aiming the camera and holding the shutter open for 1.6 seconds. There was no planning involved and I had no idea what I had caught until I saw the image in post-processing. 

The only alterations that were made were slight cropping and a tiny bit of contrast-type adjustment. The subject, what I call the "angel", was not modified in any way.

I'm a very data-driven, scientifically minded human. I'm also very spiritually oriented. I usually use science to explain how situations occur. I usually refer to spirituality to explain why.

As the science nut that I am, I had to start digging, so I wrote to several fireworks display companies and asked two questions:

1. How likely is it that a firework was created, with 2017 technology, that would intentionnally draw this pattern within 1.6 seconds? 

2. If you think this was likely NOT due to human craftsmanship, can you think of any atmospheric conditions that could help create this shape?

In return I quickly received answers from all of them. And in complete satisfaction to my inner nerd, explanations were intelligent and punctual. The following sums up every answer I received from every company:

"The effect you have captured here is likely a “Go-getter” shell or similar scattering effect such as a “Crossette”.  Typically a long exposure in conjunction with those type of effects will create an image such as this.  While the scattering pattern is random you certainly caught it at an interesting moment.  Although Go-getters and Crossettes are slightly more advanced effects, the technology to produce them has been around for decades if not longer." 

The above was sent from Zambelli Fireworks, https://www.zambellifireworks.com.

Other, similar and intelligent answers came from Pyrotechnics Guild International, http://www.pgi.orgHollywood Pyrotechnics (Facebook link) and others who did not give permission to post their information. 

Why the shot came about

I don't like to push my version of spirituality on others, so for now I'll just explain how I believe this came about... I asked, I received. To me that's the "why" that explains this image. Of course some people will refer mainly to how the image was created. Please keep in mind, all answers from the pros said these patterns are random. In other words, no human decided what the pattern would look like. And granted, I agree it's possible this had nothing to do with the divine, but for me the only response to that is, "Come on!". 

Thank you to all who participated in the discussion.

See more from that same fireworks display, and some from the previous year. 

Fireworks CoronaFireworks Corona Fireworks BWFireworks BW  

Glowing BoatsGlowing Boats   Raining FireworksRaining Fireworks

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) 4th amazing angel beautiful being boat catholic cherub christian cross crucifix divine fire firework glow god greensburg guard holy independence indiana jesus july lake lake santee launch light moon pattern pink protect purple religion show sign sky smoke spirit sprite supernatural tree water worship https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/1/angel-in-the-fireworks Wed, 31 Jan 2018 02:28:23 GMT
Everyone is an Artist https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/1/everyone-is-an-artist Art is a strong and effective piece of the human experience, both physically and spiritually.  I believe we are all artists. We are also all interpreters of art, human-made or otherwise. You don't need to work in any specific medium, or to be published or widely accepted to be an artist. If there is any part of your life that's not a science, any activity or creation that you navigate by your own intuition, that's art. Curious about the art you create regularly? Read on. 

Balloon in Flight ABalloon in Flight A

You might not think of a Hot Air Balloon crew as artists, but look at the ride they create. Sure, there is some science, but this is probably one of the most artistic forms of transportation in existence. Why? Simple. Once they're in the air, they move with the wind and create an experience from the somewhat unknown direction they will travel. See here about an amazing night of fire and music, created by balloon crews. 

What is art?

To help illustrate the concept of art, I’ll throw it’s contrast into the mix, science. Science and art balance each other. They’re similar concepts, but fall into opposite ends of a spectrum. A science is something that is often done by the book. When you want to control electricity to light or darken an area of your home, you flip a switch on or off, not much to choose between. Creation, or rather, operation, it often follows recipes and precedents. There are usually detailed instructions only to be followed closely, only to be recreated just as the last person did it. That’s science. 

Art is the opposite way, you vary every little detail. Take painting for example. Everything from which way you move the brush to how far you lean the canvas, it’s all choice and it’s all up to the painter. Those choices can be influenced by many different things, like mood and personal experience. The combinations and levels of different influences can be woven at will. The second the brush touches the surface, anything can change as it begins to move from one place to another. As the artist continues, he or she may see a light flicker in the distance, hear a sound or smell something that triggers a memory. Those senses may cause a complete shift in the vision that sparked the work. That’s art. No constraints. Just sheer will to create and the ebb and flow of that creation. That process of creation is the art, not the product that is created. 

Mary's ArmsMary's Arms

Every line, color and shape of the above stained glass window was an outcome of a process, something based on the artist's experience and beliefs. 

Who is an artist? 

By popular concept, the idea of being an artist is often roped down to people who use the most obvious mediums. In other words, if someone isn’t holding a paint brush, a sculpting tool or the like, they’re labeled as “not an artist”. I don’t think this could be further from the truth. 

Go back to my description above about art being more of a process than a product. Think about the part where I talked about how, within that process, anything can be changed. Art goes by the gut. A lot of life is handled that way. If there is anything, anything at all that you do by the seat of your pants, you’re an artist. If there’s nothing of the sort in your life, you’re probably a clone, a robot or some other type of machine. That’s not an insult. It’s proof that we’re all artists.

We all have moments when we create something by intuition and choice. We all create while under the influence of our own past and present. The “somethings” that we create then become an influence to ourselves, everyone and everything in the spaces around us. Many of us work in conventional mediums, like photography, writing or dance. Many people work in mediums that are more hidden to the "Art world", like conversation, cooking and teaching. 

Where is art?

Art is absolutely everywhere. Aside from sitting in frames and galleries, it rests in our ovens, or skies and in our hearts and minds. Forms of art include therapy, friendship and party planning. The spectrum is huge and in it falls so many unnoticed things, like how we talk someone through a tough situation or how we lock down a tricky business deal. 

Allowing the idea of art to be overlaid onto any situation is an art by itself. It’s important that we do this because art is part of a system that balances well when it’s allowed to properly function. It gives a person a way to have healthy control in a world that is often far out of it. No matter what happens by the will of others, the artist can flow with the consequences of life. This brings me to the idea that, triggers for the creation of art are also everywhere.

Here's an example, a friend of mine was recently sitting in a car at a stoplight waiting for the signal to get moving. Behind him came another driver traveling at twice the speed limit while messing with a phone. My friend looked in his rear-view and knew this person was not going to stop in time. He had nowhere safe to move to. So, as expected, soon came a short, loud screech from rubber sliding across pavement. This was of course, followed by an extreme slam and a jolt he'll never forget. Clearly, my friend had something to be seriously angry about. His actual reaction was something I'll never forget. 

The person who hit him was completely out of sorts, saying this kind of thing has never happened before. At this point in the story I expected to hear how my friend gave the other driver a heated lecture. There was nothing of the sort. He lent an understanding ear and stayed calm. He even gave the other driver a water bottle out of concern and good will. THAT... was art. While in pain and looking at the damage to the vehicles, Instead of adding to the suffering, my friend found a way to help calm it. He did this in the way he addressed the other driver. As far as I know, not one at the scene pulled out any paint brushes, sculpting tools or knitting needles. But the point is, there was art on the scene of an accident. My friend had to use an on-point, quickly pieced system of compassion and self-calming techniques.  

Metal FlowersMetal Flowers

The above is a manhole cover on a city street, a piece of art where there should only be utility. 

The importance of art

A child’s environment is a great example of where art is needed. Adults need it too, but this is one easy highlight. For example, take a kid who's failing at becoming a fit in a school system. I'm using myself as an example here. Growing up, I did terribly in academics and physical education, but found solace in art class. No matter how bad my grades were in other classes, and they were bad, I found success during art period.

While failing at history reports and math exams, in art class I could create something complete, something compelling, a reminder that even in chaos I could find a moment of control. This is because art is done by the heart, not the book. This is why I have such a hard time hearing of so many schools cutting funding for art and music. Those last few children who don't fit the system can lose one last potential place to feel like a success. The children who do fit the system are losing an experience where they can let go of boundaries.

The above also relates to us as adults. It's not just about the creation, but also about admiration. Every time you frame a piece and hang it on your wall, it gives new life to your space. Every time you set a sculpture on a table you enhance your environment. You can place art everywhere and admire it at any time. For some of us it's an escape, a reminder of what helps us move forward or keep a piece of the past. And it gets deeper...

The reasons we admire a creation can change over time as we continue to examine it. Lines and shapes we never realized existed within a pice can reveal themselves as time goes on. This is one reason close-up, abstract style art is one of my favorite ways to shoot. There is an endless list of ways to interpret and become familiar with an abstract image. An onlooker can become lost in a piece of art for some time and that's an emotional and intelligent experience. 

Look to the natural world for the rest. 

As I've said before, art is everywhere. I don't just mean man-made art. When looking at the next round of images, try not focusing on the way I shot them. Focus on what's in them. Look at the art that was created before I documented it. The canvases are skies, rock, water and other natural resources. The carvings and brush strokes, laid by natural forces over a time frame we rarely understand. The movement seems more carefully planned and more time consuming than anything I've seen a person create.  

  Cows Under Sunsunset BCows Under Sunsunset B

The above was taken on the side of the road, somewhere in Colorado, exact place unknown. 

Rock MossRock Moss

The above? Just a rock with some moss on it, but look at the intricacy. 

Rock CastleRock Castle

Check out the patterns and lines all over the above rock formation. 

Conclusion

The next time you look at a piece that was created by art, natural or man-made, remove the abstract walls that stand between what the creator did and things you do in your own life. As you stare at a sculpture, listen to a song or browse my galleries (shameless plug), compare it to your own creations, your own daily interactions with the worlds around you and inside you. Think about one of the most helpful set of words you ever gave to someone. Revisit a moment you helped influence a decision. Remember the last time you got creative with humor and made someone laugh. Congratulations, you’re an artist! 

More examples of natural and man-made art:

Mt. RainierMt. Rainier   Flowing LinesFlowing Lines   Lighthouse MechanicsLighthouse Mechanics

Yellow Tree AYellow Tree A   Wukoki Rock Face (Horizontal)Wukoki Rock Face (Horizontal) Rainbow BabyRainbow BabyMy baby girl seeing her first rainbow.

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) art artist balloon be an artist create creator image paint photo sculpt https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/1/everyone-is-an-artist Thu, 25 Jan 2018 03:30:13 GMT
Artist's Favorite Images, Page, Arizona, Balloon Regatta and Fire Display https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/1/artists-favorite-images-page-balloon It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen. Balloonists, lining the streets of Page, Arizona with their baskets and burners. Controlled fire was everywhere, synchronized to music. Let me show you a bit of what I'm talking about. 

Balloon BurnerBalloon Burner

What the...?

It was supposed to be a lighting event. Hot air balloons were to be filled and sitting on the ground, lit up and displayed from one end of the road to the other. Imagine my excitement as a photographer, drooling at the prospect of both seeing and shooting this for the first time. Imagine my disappointment when the ten mile an hour wind speed limit had been reached. A long line of beautiful, lit balloons just wasn't in the plan that night. I figured my great opportunity had been crushed. As you can see from the photos, it flourished, morphed from what was to be into what you see in the photos. 

Those balloonists, what can I say? Apparently they're stubborn, not easily stopped from properly entertaining their followers. They hatched a genius plan that turned out to be absolutely beautiful. I had no idea, but I was about to feed my lenses with fire! The very same wind that stopped the flames from filling the balloons was now about to sculpt an amazing display. And just as we heard the news about the lack of balloons and turned tail back toward the car, we were told about the replacement plan. We figured "why not check it out". Thankfully, we found some pretty amazing reasons. 

What it was like 

 

Burners lit and ready. Fire away...

Burner Fire ABurner Fire A

It was a bit chilly that night, but it didn't matter over here. You could feel the intense, instant heat form these burners from quite a distance. The nanosecond someone would pull the cord would bring out quite a show. The sound was big, a quick rushing combination of roar and rumble. The light glowed intensely,  a beautiful blue at the bottom that worked it's way up through deep oranges and yellows, ending tens of feet above the burners. 

There were non-stop hoots and hollers, constant excited shouts from a crowd that was free to wander around the baskets and get close to the fire. Along side was a festival of delicious, celebratory foods. There were vendors who sold trinkets, shirts and artwork. It was quite an amazing site to stroll through the streets, passing under stop lights and signs, choosing vantage points to see flame after flame. 

Burners would fire one, then the next, then the next. At times there would be one down the way firing along with one next to us while many in between lay dormant. Patterns of cord pulling, bright light and roaring sound would develop into successions of flames while music synced up in the background. 

Every once in a while you could hear commands spoken over two-way radios, calling to the balloonists to lay fire with timing. My favorite was to hear "All burn in 3... 2... 1..." just before the entire street lit up for a few seconds, every basket, every burner. 

Normally I'm slow when it comes to shooting. Most of the time I take a good thirty to sixty seconds to set up one frame. On occasion I've taken as much as fifteen minutes or more just to perfectly align one image. That night in Page, Arizona was totally different. The balloon regatta had added a new style to my skill set. I've taken some long hard hikes to get to get to a place I want to capture, but never used this much energy just for the actual shots. I was moving and focusing quickly, holding the shutter button down for long periods, letting the camera take in round after round. By the time it was all said and done, it took less than an hour to rack up almost 700 images! 

The aftermath

In post-processing, it took a bit for my excitement to build. Imagine thumbing (with a track pad that is) through hundreds of images, all looking about the same at first. After about an hour of this I'd grabbed a few for later. With all of that work I'd found some that felt very artistic, exciting even.

Burner Fire Old QuarterBurner Fire Old Quarter

Burner Fire MoonBurner Fire Moon

In the above image, the white circle you see toward the bottom of the flame is a full moon. 

Burner Fire FaceBurner Fire Face

I see a face in the image above. I call him "Lyle". I'd love to hear your comments if you know which Lyle I'm referring to. 

Conclusion

City streets just weren't meant to be used like this. Safe, controlled fire under stop lights and street lamps. Hot Air Balloon baskets sitting on pavement, just outside of business and restaurant entrances. People walking around fire, smiling, laughing, pointing at bright flames. Thank you Page, Arizona! Thank you Balloon crews! Thank you ten plus mile an hour winds! 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Mainly here I've focused on the fire display the night before the second flight. Remember I mentioned stubborn balloonists? I learned even more about that because on the next day, the weather wasn't quite cooperating again, this time for the launch. Instead of giving up, they split up and left the main launch site. The crews spread out to different spots around Page and launched. It was incredible, balloons popping up all over the horizon. You can also see images from that moment in the transport gallery or by clicking them below... 

Balloon by StacksBalloon by Stacks Balloons in Flight BBalloons in Flight B   Balloon Burner Closeup BBalloon Burner Closeup B Hot Air Balloon Closeup DHot Air Balloon Closeup D

 

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) arizona art balloon burn burner celebrate celebration festival fire flame fuel heat hot air balloon ignite lake powell night old quarter page arizona propane regatta street street of the little motels https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/1/artists-favorite-images-page-balloon Thu, 18 Jan 2018 03:10:25 GMT
Artist's Favorite Images, Scum of The Earth Church https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/1/artist-favorites-scum-of-earth-church Intro

I've been exploring different modes of spirituality for many years. I've researched different religions, had many friends from all over the world and visited many different types of spiritual grounds. My travels have opened an entire spectrum, from large, beautiful Catholic churches, to a week's stay at a Buddhist center, to the place I'm about to introduce... Scum of The Earth Church. You read right, that's the name and no, it doesn't refer to a congregation of evil, in fact, the church is far from it. 

How I found it

I came across this place during a short stay in Denver, Colorado, United States. That stay was lengthened and only for the purpose of shooting photos at the church. Why? Take a look. The visuals are the one reason I can actually show you, the rest has to be described and imagined unless you find yourself in Denver, taking my high recommendation to visit.

Light OrbitLight OrbitA mobile in the front lobby of the church.

Mobile Orbit

The two above images are of a beautiful, steam-punk-style mobile, alight and spinning in the front lobby of the church. The one below is, yes, the bathroom. (of the three, only the top image is available in my public galleries). 

I found this church by doing a search engine dig for "best churches in Denver CO". Apparently, Scum of the Earth Church has been featured in quite a few articles and videos. As soon as I read their website, their mission statement and watched the documentary it hit me, this is exactly the kind of crowd I want my baby daughter involved in.

Why we went

Why? Why would I want to expose my little girl to church-going folks that have a chain dawning, long haired, heavy metal style? I'll give you the same reason Jesus would, because the world and spirituality don't just belong to those who fit any kind of mold. Over the course of my own life I've mingled many times with mistake makers, the homeless and people of their own style. It's not because I prefer a life of unsavory behavior, I don't. 

After seeing too many examples of what doesn't work, I've run my own personal, persistent war against becoming what God doesn't want. It's my own experience that makes me want to join hands with others like me, those who fight for renewal. Simply put, there's no one better to make earthly improvements than those who know how badly they're needed. There's no one better to know how badly they're needed than those who've been immersed in negativity and suffering, that is, many from the crowd you'd find at a place like Scum of the Earth Church.

God has a system. That system works when it's allowed to run freely. That system includes forgiveness and a need for information from, and for... everyone. Ask God if you don't believe me. It's not just about the person who appears to have a clean life. It is truly about everyone. 

This is the philosophy that Scum of the Earth Church embodies, Agape love... unconditional, compassionate and forgiving. They believe in bringing people to the spiritual experience no matter what judgement others have tossed their way (human judgement, of course). My daughter, this is what I want her to understand because you can raise a child to be anything, surgeon, artist, engineer, but without acceptance the full benefits of any profession, any life become exclusive. And when we shut out others, no matter who, we shut out useful connections and useful information. I wanted to shoot photos at Scum of the Earth Church because they're fighting those closing doors and I want to promote that. They say it well with a bible quote posted on their website... 

1 Corinthians 4:11-13...

"To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the Scum of the Earth, the refuse of the world."

Our Experience

Service times, checked and chosen. GPS programed. Driving to the church, done. Walk up to the building... 

Above, left: The window at the front entrance. Above, right: A mural found on the side of the building. Neither of the above are available in public galleries. Apologies, I didn't have much time to shoot and the two images I had of the entire building did not turn out presentable. 

I was a bit shocked considering the slew of information that's out there about this church. It was smaller than I expected, a nice kind of small, comfortable and cozy. I still expected to see something as big as the persona this church has on the web, but was in no way disappointed. This place immediately struck me as an artist's dream world. The mural pictured above was a scene straight from the bible with a bit of a twist of course, reminiscent of the 144,000, God's special forces that is. Art is everywhere in this church, absolute art, absolutely everywhere. Everything from the stage to the bathroom is adorned with thoughtful details. Check these out... 

Star PatternStar PatternThis image was shot at a church. Curious? I would be. See the entire story here. Lines and Squares BWLines and Squares BWThis image was shot at a church. Curious? I would be. See the entire story here.

The two above are floors. The two below are inside the chapel. 

The service was more personal than I expected. The crowd was flecked with a mix of different people, some as previously described, some looked like folks you'd see in your average neighborhood. 

The music was inspirational and the sermon was well done by a woman (a nice change from my own experience). It was a great piece about the Biblical story of Paul and the amount of traveling and hardship he endured to spread the word of God. It fit the genre of what you'd expect from a church trying to light the fire of God in the hearts of the community. As usual, as with the messages I've gotten from any spiritual place, the information felt well placed in my life and I'm sure it would with anyone who can get past the unusual. 

After the Service

People moved the chairs around and laid out a slew of tables. Everyone formed a line and slung it through the back door behind the chapel. Oh yeah! Grab a setting and load it with some seriously good home cooking. We sat for a nice meal and some enlightening conversation with regulars and those passing through. What you learn from understanding where people come from, that is the point of the sit-down. Sure there was small talk, but there were some really nice, welcome conversations about who was traveling where, who was at their home base and why each was each... exactly what I want my daughter to hear. 

Then came my request to shoot photos, granted. Out of that, one of the photos I love most. It was simply a light in the back room... 

Stained LampStained LampIt's in the Devine category because it was shot at a church. See the entire story here.

And more of course. This was sitting on top of a wall in the chapel... 

Bike (Color)Bike (Color)This image was shot at a church. Curious? I would be. See the entire story here.

Conclusion

This was one of the shortest photo shoots I've ever done and yet one of the most impactful in my own life and in Grace's and my daughter's. It wasn't so much about the visuals, but what they represent. As I say in my About page, everyone is an artist, everyone is an interpreter of art. This means anyone of any belief. But for me to join my connection to the spiritual with art and to be lead to a place that embodies that in their own practice, it was a great gift. The community this church embeds itself into is a fair one, not exclusive. That's the way I like to create images. 

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) angel basilica building cherub christian church colorado cross crucifix denver divine god holy jesus religion saint scum scum of the earth spirit supernatural worship https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/1/artist-favorites-scum-of-earth-church Sun, 14 Jan 2018 00:32:39 GMT
Artist 's Favorite Images, Canyon Rainbow by Shawn P Keenan https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/1/artists-favorite-images-canyon-rainbow   Canyon Rainbow CCanyon Rainbow CFound in Cortez Colorado. See the story of how it was shot here.

Where were they shot?

"Canyon Rainbow" (B and C), and the other that goes with them were shot during a road trip in November of 2017. We were staying in Cortez, Colorado, United States. 

How did this happen?

A light rain hit the town of Cortez, Just after leaving a grocery store. As we were driving back to the hotel, we started to notice this entire light show develop. First came the light line of blue, perfectly blanketed by a glowing set of clouds. Then, slowly one rainbow started fading in  across the backdrop, then a second.

How did I get the shot?

I had no photo gear with me, but I had a feeling if I hurried I could capture what you see above. I drove back to the hotel and made the difficult trek upstairs (by pushing at least two elevator buttons and standing there for six seconds), almost dropped my gear trying to rig it up and sling it around my neck, then dragged it back down and out the door as fast a possible. Grace had the baby upstairs along with an overfilled bladder. I told her I'd wait until she went, but she knew I might miss the shot, so she kept saying "Just Go, Just Go". 

Heading outside I saw poles and wires all over that were poised to simply wreck my shots. So I slung my gear down down a small road and into a field. Once I set up the shot, I snapped away with only about five minutes to spare. I didn't have time to see the results as I was shooting. But you can probably imagine what a gift this moment felt like when I saw the results while processing the images. 

Canyon Rainbow BCanyon Rainbow BFound in Cortez Colorado. See the story of how it was shot here.

What happened later?

Grace finally got to pee. I figured you'd be relieved to know (get it?). 

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) blue canyon clouds colorado cortez covenant double drop god green indigo light nature orange photography rain rainbow red reflect refract roygbiv sky slyfocal unique violet yellow https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/1/artists-favorite-images-canyon-rainbow Wed, 10 Jan 2018 03:16:28 GMT
More New Images From the Road Trip https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/1/more-new-images-from-the-road-trip Hello all, 

We've has been on a road trip across the US.

A bunch of new images have been added to the galleries from that trip! Visit the Most Recent section or browse galleries to see more.

Stained LampStained LampIt's in the Devine category because it was shot at a church. See the entire story here. Cliff and CloudsCliff and Clouds Dogwood and SunDogwood and Sun Abandoned Car Closeup CAbandoned Car Closeup C Light OrbitLight OrbitThis image was shot at a church. Curious? I would be. See the entire story here. Steel Circles ASteel Circles A

The above are just. few of many new images. Hundreds more will be posted in the coming weeks. 

Thanks, 

Shawn

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2018/1/more-new-images-from-the-road-trip Wed, 03 Jan 2018 03:30:16 GMT
New Images https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2017/12/new-images Hello all, 

A bunch of new images have been added to the galleries! Visit the Most Recent section or browse galleries to see more. 

Thanks, 

Shawn

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2017/12/new-images Wed, 27 Dec 2017 03:45:44 GMT
Up and Running! Launch Sale! https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2017/9/up-and-running SlyFocal.com is finally up and running! To celebrate, all prints and products are 30% off. Just type "launch" (no quotes) in the coupon code box during checkout. There are no limits on the number of products you buy and the number of times you use the code. 

Jet ClimbJet Climb

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  • Updates on new products and images, 
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Thanks for your interest! 

- Shawn

 

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shawn@slyfocal.com (SlyFocal.com Imagery by Shawn Keenan) image nature photography shawn keenan slyfocal structure tech unique https://www.slyfocal.com/blog/2017/9/up-and-running Sun, 17 Sep 2017 05:03:39 GMT