What’s In Your In-Box?

In my email in-box this morning, I received a special surprise. It was an email from myself that I wrote six months ago. I seem to remember some online seminar or tutorial I took that suggested using FutureMe.org to email your future self. Apparently, I took them up on that suggestion. I wish I could remember who the instructor, or course, was that suggested this, because BOY! did it have an impact on me. While I cannot check off one single goal I listed (because all the goals I listed are still a work in progress), it was still so profoundly encouraging. Instead of feeling bad or beating myself up with negative “self-talk” (come on, we all do it), the last paragraph was written as if someone (not me) was talking to, and encouraging, a very dear friend. And, that’s what it did. It encourages me to keep working so I do NOT let the “writer” down. Here are the last few sentences that make me question if I REALLY wrote this to MYSELF?

I know you are all set to tackle new goals and be YOUR best. Stop comparing yourself and your work to others. No one is like you. No one has traveled your path. No one sees things just like you. It is time to share it with the world.

This email came at exactly the time I needed this encouragement. I have been trying to navigate goals, strategies, what I want to do with my art, what am I saying with my art, what is the purpose, is my work adding value, what do I share, where do I share it… Sometimes it is a very solitary journey I travel. At times, it is an overwhelming journey that paralyzes me with indecision. And, then something makes me take another step.

I have been repeatedly told not to rely on your family and friends to evaluate your art. This makes me laugh. What is the definition of family or friends for that matter? For example: at the last gallery show my work was accepted, I felt awkward and uncomfortable because I did not know anyone at the opening reception. I started talking to a woman I have never seen before. A woman I have never seen since either.  Her nephew had work selected for the show, but he was stationed abroad and could not make it to the opening reception. So, she drove a goodly distance, on a rainy night, to support him in his absence. She also kindly offered to take a picture of me, for me, so I too could remember the evening. All I know, if there are people who enter your life and help you; be it your online seminar instructor, your new neighbor, your friend of 30+ years, some generous, supportive stranger at an art opening, the person who takes the time to read my newsletter, or comment on a post… how are they not my family?  Do they even know that they are doing the deeds of angels unaware? They humble me. They honor me. They encourage me. And, they show up just as I’m ready to admit defeat. This, my large, supportive, family, is my way of saying thank you. I encourage you to write an email to your future self. But, you MUST be as kind, generous, and supportive as if you were writing it to a very dear friend.

iPhone Photography Tips

We ALL take photos with our iPhone. We ALL want to take better photos with our iPhone. It does not matter if you want to post them on your social media channels, or simple preserve a memory for yourself. We can all benefit from better images. Julia Kelleher, a talented photographer, wrote a great blog post on this very subject, which she graciously shares with us. Thanks Julia!


Your iPhone is with you at all times, right? It’s like your right hand — always there, always ready to help you muddle your way through the day and kill boredom when the need arises. But that phone of yours can be oh-so-frustrating when your darling child chooses a particular moment to do something photo-worthy and your phone chooses that time to revolt.

Well, when you learn the inner and secret features of your iPhone camera, your days of being “slow on the draw” will be over. On top of that, your camera skills will improve 10-fold and your images will too, making your memories print and wall worthy.

So let’s look at some of the tricks and features inside your iPhone that will make you shine at the next family get together!


Don’t miss ANY moment. To get to your camera lickety-split do one of two things depending on if your iPhone is locked or not.


Locked Iphone-Open Camera

  1. Hit the home button
  2. Locate the camera icon on the lower right corner of the screen.
  3. Swipe up & the camera will open.


Unlocked Iphone_Open Camera

  1. Swipe Up
  2. Tap the camera icon & the camera will open.


Activating the grid will place a “tick-tac-toe” box on your screen as you shoot. What’s the benefit? Where the lines cross is called a “power point.” When you place your subject on of the four points you create images with a little negative space and better, more artistic composition. A little pro tip that will make your images that much prettier!

Grid Activation

            TO ACTIVATE:

  1. Go to Settings > Photos&Camera > Grid > Turn it On


Professional photographer know light like the back of your hand, and every lighting situation poses different issues, especially of you camera. A camera cannot see light and adjust the way the human eye can. So, it’s important to be able to tell your camera how to behave when you need it to in order to get a good “exposure.” The classic scenario that may drive you crazy is shooting a darker subject on a bright background. Your camera will want to make the background look good and your subject will be dark and ugly! ARGH! The way around this? Use the hidden feature in your iPhone that lets YOU control how bright an image is.


  1. Open the camera
  2. Compose your shot
  3. Tap and HOLD on the screen where you want to focus. The yellow box will blink and set focus.
  4. Swipe up or down to make the camera brighten or darken the exposure
  5. When you’re happy with how it looks, take the shot!

Exposure_Focus Lock_Adjust


Flash from your camera almost never looks good. It produces a harsh, flat light that doesn’t always need to be there, yet the camera seems to want to use it all the time. Turn it off when you can for more pleasing light in your images.


  1. In the camera app, tap the lighting bolt icon in the upper left corner.
  2. Choose and tap “Off.”
  3. Shoot as you like!


Did you know your iPhone can shoot 10 frames per second in burst mode? WHAT? My iPhone has burst mode? Yes it does! And it’s great for catching your toddler on the run.


  1. Press and HOLD the shutter release button on your camera app.
  2. Voila! 10 frames per second.

Burst Mode


Taking the picture is just half the process in the Pro world. Editing and enhancing the image is 50% of the process. Yes, even when you shoot with your iPhone you can make your images stand out even more by using a good editing app.

Here’s a few fun suggestions to try out:


It’s Movie Time!!

I have always loved old movies. The television stations would run these old flicks late at night and, as a child, I would stay up late just to watch old movies by myself on weekends and summers. I discovered all kinds of gems from To Kill A Mockingbird to The Bridge on the River Kwai and everything in between. Since my childhood, I have been fortunate enough to see some of these films on the “big screen”, as they were intended. One of the most dramatic differences of big screen viewing, for me, has to be Lawrence of Arabia. I had a chance to see it at the Lensic when we were visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico one Christmas holiday. I have to say that it was even more impressive to watch it  that way. I picked up on details that are lost on the “small” screen. I think everyone should have the opportunity to see it this way, at least once, to truly appreciate the movie.

Digital Photography, SuZan Alexander, Copyright © 2010

Digital Photography, SuZan Alexander, Copyright © 2010

A few weeks ago we learned that Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is sponsoring movies in select movie theaters. The Cinemark near us is participating, so we started with one of my favorite movies – Roman Holiday, staring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. One of my favorite scenes from the movie is when they visit the Mouth of Truth. Neither character is being exactly truthful, and yet Gregory Peck turned the scene into a light moment that appears very candid between the two actors. I like that scene so much that I tracked down the Mouth of Truth when I visited Rome a few years ago.

Tonight we are going to see one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies – wait for it – It’s a Wonderful Life. I am SO looking forward to seeing this movie tonight. And, if you are interested in old movies, the next movie on the rotation is another Christmas flick – Miracle on 34th Street. I’ll save White Christmas to watch on DVD later – because you know I’ve already caught that Technicolor dream on the big screen a few years back.

Yep! I’ve got my Christmas happy on right now. It IS a wonderful life!

Storm’s a Brewin’

I visited New Mexico for a few days in May. The only thing I asked was to get some time to photograph White Sands at those times when the light is “magic”. It happens twice a day – sunrise and sunset. My scheduled day came and, boy oh boy, was I excited. However, driving to the park, the skies became more and more threatening. That was okay by me. I could try my hand at photographing the lightning. It was the whole making lemonade out of lemons thing for me. I was driven to take photos and practice getting the images I wanted and a little bit of rain was not going to stop me. In fact, the sky would be fabulous, I reasoned. It will only make the sunset colors better and the sky more interesting.

The car was barely in park before I bailed out with my camera in hand. Notice I said camera. No tripod. No cable release or remote triggering device. Just me and my camera. As I bolted (and I use that term loosely) up the first dune, I was using my legs to climb, but not really getting far in the sand. I stopped to laugh thinking I must look like a comical cartoon character, but, reality made me sober up – I was loosing precious light and opportunity. Finally, I made it to the top of the dune! The wind was blowing like crazy and it was everything I could do to hold myself upright let alone hand-hold a camera still enough for a chance at a tack-sharp image. Tears were streaming down my face from the sand in my eyes, so I couldn’t see much, but I was still determined to get an image, or two – or three. I managed to capture a few images before the Park Rangers made rounds through the Park using a loud speaker to warn everyone a severe storm was approaching and we should return to vehicles and take cover. Yep. Fifteen minutes, the cost of the entry fee, and dust on my camera sensor for a handful of pretty much unusable photos. But, boy, do I have new respect for those Park Rangers and the job they do.

I debated if I should share these because (1) they are NOT tack sharp, and (2) I probably shouldn’t admit that I was this foolish (or stubborn). Yes. I think I should share them as a cautionary tale.

When the sky looks like this, you should be concerned and take cover people. Don’t walk around with a little computerized piece of equipment wishing you had not left the 3-legged metal lightning rod tripod in the car. But I’m still convinced they would have been some great images. Just kidding.

Exhibit “A” Stormy Sky at White Sands © 2015 SuZan Alexander

Exhibit “B” White Sands Lightening © 2015 SuZan Alexander


Sketching and Traveling Tip for Tuesday

I recently took a trip to one of my favorite places in the WHOLE world – Northern New Mexico. (Insert SIGH here) But that’s another post all together. Today, I wanted to tell you about this nifty “Sketch Folio” that my friend, Eve, gave me a while back that I used on the trip.

Sketch Portfolio

Sketch Portfolio

It is designed to help you travel light and have all your sketching supplies at the ready for those quick sketches. This thing was great! It holds all the essentials, it weighs next to nothing, is pretty inconspicuous, and it made me feel more organized. Thanks Eve!

And, tip number two, I’m usually pretty frugal, but I PAID to send all my art supplies via FedEx to the hotel where we stayed our first night. This was really a life-saver for me instead of lugging art supplies or, even worse, CHECKING art supplies on a flight. I called the hotel before I sent them to myself and gave them a heads-up. I can’t say enough about Hotel St. Francis‘s staff and, of course, FedEx. Customer service is not a thing of the past with these folks on your team. Then, when our trip was over, we stopped off at FedEx on our way to the airport and sent the art supplies on their way back home to me. Everything arrived in great shape. Not even a crease on a piece of paper; and no lifting. Worth every penny.

Tuesday Tip for Colored Pencils

For those of you who want to use every bit of those colored pencils we spend our hard-earned money on, have I got a tip for you! I’ve tried the old glue trick and ended up with probably just as much glue on my fingertips as the pencil I was gluing. To make matters worse, some of the pencils were not exactly aligned to my “standards”. Well, Ann Kullberg is a colored pencil artist, author and also publishes a magazine for colored pencil artists. She recently started selling these handy-dandy little tools called Glue-it To-it on her website. Genius!


Tip: Photography Bag

I hope everyone had a great Labor Day. I enjoyed some wonderful days, but now I’m back with a Tip for Tuesday.

For quite some time now, I’ve been look for a camera bag that will accommodate my camera gear, as well as personal items, like cell phone, wallet, glasses… you get the idea. Most camera bags seem designed primarily for men who, generally, keep these personal items actually on their person. I have spent more money looking for a bag that I felt protected both my camera and personal items in ONE place. (Did I hear an AMEN from the female photographers out there?) I felt like I was always making a choice of which items to secure. While taking photos, my small purse was not my primary concern, and, conversely, I have dangled my camera unprotected from my shoulder while trying to get from point A to point B, purchase tickets in a crowd, etc. Looking back, I am amazed all items survived unscathed and weren’t subject to pickpockets or damage in some fashion.

Before our trip to Oregon, I was determined to find a bag that I felt a little more comfortable carrying, that also secured all my gear in one place. I ordered a Lowepro Passport Sling Bag and was very pleased with the durability, versitility, and space it provided. I have since discovered camera bags that look more like purses, but they come with a hefty price tag for me to take hiking to a waterfall. It just isn’t me to have a pink patent leather purse strapped to my wrist while I’m on some new adventure. This Sling Bag bad boy was under $60. I took pictures of it upon it’s arrival so I could show you – oh, the other stuff in the box – uhmmm, Amazon threw it in ’cause I’m a good kid. Okay, not REALLY; but I wanted to see who was still reading. 🙂

Camera Bag, Digital Photography, © 2012 SuZan Alexander

I hesitate to add this photo, but I’m going to make you feel really good about yourselves and your photography knowledge when I admit this. I snapped several shots and was puzzled when they were not sharp. No. I didn’t use a tripod, but they shouldn’t be THIS bad. Luckily, this little exercise helped me realize that the lens I was using didn’t have the Vibration Reduction feature. This little “practice” session saved me from loosing all the shots from my trip due to blurry hand-held photos. Live and learn – – from my mistakes that is. It’s the least I can do for saving my trip photos. The extra laugh is free of charge.


Tuesday Tips: RSS Feeders

I admit that I might be a late bloomer in learning about some technology, so if you already know about RSS Feed Readers, I won’t be a bit offended if you stop reading here- I’ll never know. But, I wanted to share this little tip because I only recently discovered these useful little “services” in which you organize all the news and web blogs you frequently visit. It compiles all the sites you subscribe to and shows you when there is a new post to read. These readers make for a one-stop reading for current news and your particular interest(s). I find these readers to be a much more effective use of time, as well as a useful means of keeping current on photography tips, new art shows, etc. There are several services out there, like Bloglines, Feedreader, NewsGator….and the list goes on and on. I just happen to use Google Reader because I already had an account set up and because it is very user friendly. So there’s my Tuesday Tip: RSS Feed Readers. Use the RSS Feed button on this website to take it on a test drive if you want.