you can be whatever you want

applehilltrees

I was raised in the culture of “you can be whatever you want when you grow up” — which seems to be the bane of every millennial’s existence. Until recently, I don’t think I fully understood that statement. Some take it to extremes and think that even if your IQ is 50, as long as you try hard enough you can be president — if you want it badly enough. Some, like me, thought it was meant to say that everything in life is a choice and you have the freedom to be president since gender and race inequality are supposedly a thing of the past and we live in the “richest country in the world”; read: opportunities to be whatever you want. Here is a twist though — what if it means that you can literally wake up one day and be something you weren’t the day before? What if speaking it into the universe makes it so?

One of the things I have learned along my 5-year journey to truly become a professional artist is that “faking it til you make it” is a real thing, and it’s a lesson I couldn’t seem to keep down until this past month, when it basically bitch-slapped me back into reality. I experienced a few months of success in 2011 — my work was published in a calendar, I was quoted by the Wall Street Journal, had my first art show and sold my first print. The thing that got me to that point and through the workload of getting my work show-ready was the fact that I was calling myself a “Photographer” with a straight face for the first time ever. I had never ever before recognized or labeled myself with the title of “Photographer.” I had always referred to myself as someone who just “does” photography as a hobby, never anything with a real title. When the pace of my success came to a grinding halt, I also stopped referring to myself as such — maybe I wasn’t worthy of the title, maybe it’s because I got distracted and stopped creating. I honestly don’t know why and I didn’t realize I even did that until I really looked back on that time in my life.

I tell you this because after my car accident in September, being unable to work, people would ask me what I do and replying back with “self-employed” never ever cut it. What do I do? I finally got sick of humming and hawing and started telling people straight out — “I’m a photographer.” I felt like I was telling a white lie because sure I might be an amateur photographer, but I have yet to really achieve success and recognition. It didn’t hit me until I was driving up to Apple Hill to meet up with my friends that there just HAD to be a reason for this accident. Things like this don’t just happen to good people for no reason, and yes I am- unapologetically — one of those “everything happens for a reason” people. As I was hitting my favorite part of the drive up, where you can see over the entire Sacramento Valley, it dawned on me — what if this happened to push me into really BEING a photographer? I’ve been saying I’m one, and I love and practice photography. Why am I not a photographer in my own head? What the hell is the difference between saying I am one and being one at this point? What if this accident was a reminder that I need to quit wasting my precious creative juices on work and refocus them onto walking the walk. I quit my job 6 months ago for a reason — to be more creative, and here I was working like a dog to make money and fund someone else’s dream, screw that. It’s time to be a Photographer, “capital P.” What’s really stopping me from calling myself and being one? Success? If I can succeed with just a few months of work and half the effort like in 2011, why not go for broke and really live out my creative dreams?

By the time I got to Apple Hill it sunk in — I am a photographer. I AM a Photographer. That is what I do. I am a Photographer, and I run my own blog and YouTube channel — and that is what I shall do. I’m so done living other people’s dreams. I want to live mine now and there truly is no time like the present and I can’t afford to keep being reminded by the universe. I can’t afford another physically painful message from the powers that be telling me to stop wasting my time on fruitless efforts.

You can be whatever you want, when you grow up.

This is me growing up. I am grown up, and I am a Photographer. It’s finally time, and thank God, because 29 years is way too long for me to just finally “get it.”

Sincerely,
Valerie Figueroa, Photographer

 

the chicken or the egg?

Krystal & Vic (Miniatures Effect, edited to B&W)
Krystal & Vic (Miniatures Effect, edited to B&W)

Its a well known fact that I am NOT a portrait photographer. Its just not my thing or my specialty and I will be the first to admit that there are way better people out there to do your wedding, baby shoot, family portrait- whatever involving humans. Sometimes I wonder if I am not good at portraits because I hate them or if I hate them because I am not good at them. What came first the chicken or the egg? Either way I have no problem admitting my faults in this area of my life. I give so much respect to portrait photographers because their job is infinitely more difficult than any other photographers’. Portraiture is not only about composition and lighting, but you also have wild cards which are the very much alive and constantly moving, breathing, and blinking subjects. Throwing kids into the mix? Screw it, better say your prayers.

Out of the many and many photos I snapped of my godson and his family up at Apple Hill a couple weekends ago, the only ones that were acceptable were the ones of the adults. I wasn’t really trying to do portraits, I was really just there to help my best friend get an acceptable shot for her annual Christmas card portrait and I was vlogging the whole trip. I didn’t even bring my cameras (big mistake). Luckily for me my vlog camera, a Canon PowerShot ELPH 340 HS, has some fun settings (Toy Camera Effect, and Tilt Shift aka Miniatures Effect). For the record I am very much against copping out of taking real honest to god photographs and overusing filters or heavily photo-shopping your work. But if you aren’t doing it seriously or proclaiming it as art- I am totally fine with that. Anyway, I was able to snag a couple photos I liked using these in-camera filter settings which were fun to mess around with.

The Toy Camera Effect gave the photos a really strong vignette, a cool hue, and some minor blurring. The Miniatures Effect aims to achieve that tilt-shift effect everyone so loves that creates the illusion that regular sized objects on the horizon are miniature. In reality its an in-camera digital filter that just blurs out the top and bottom very heavily- but it was still pretty fun to play around with especially considering when I actually use my real cameras to shoot I always play with the depth of focus, sometimes annoyingly so.

Long story short, I ended up with a couple of fun photos and I hope you like them too.

The Calderons (Toy Camera Effect)
The Calderons (Toy Camera Effect)
Victor Thomas (Miniatures Effect)
Victor Thomas (Miniatures Effect)

late to the youtube party

So recently I took up vlogging. For those of you who live under a rock, vlogging is a video blog- or vlog for short. Basically I’ve been binge watching my favorite youtubers like BF vs GF, the CTFxC, and the most inspirational Fun For Louis. They’ve totally inspired me to document what the heck I’ve been going through, because for me at least, its totally life changing what I’ve been going through the past few weeks and I feel like things are going in a fun and positive direction. I want evidence of me living my life to the fullest, who wouldn’t? So basically I went to Texas with a lot of footage and only added to my pile. So far I’ve only had a change to edit videos from my vacation because I realized when I got here I uploaded the first two weeks of videos on my computer at home so… whoops? So here are my videos from vacation day and onward, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did making them.

 

Note: I’m really sorry for the crap video quality. I’m still using my very old camera from like 2007, I haven’t really had a chance to order a new one that has full HD video yet.

Vossler Farms Pumpkin Patch

Carlos & Mommy, Vossler Farms 2013
Carlos & Mommy, Vossler Farms 2013

So while I was in Hantucky visiting with Krystal and the kids, we went for a little outing to the nearby pumpkin patch in Visalia, which is about 20 minutes outside of Hanford. Every year Krystal makes it a point to visit a pumpkin patch with Emery and take family pictures in the fields, and this was Carlos’ first visit to a pumpkin patch. I’m so glad I got to be there for his first time. Emery was having a blast playing in the dirt (this kid is hilarious I swear), and I was going to town trying to use up the last of my b&w roll of film I had. Emery, being the little ham she is was taking every opportunity to model for Krystal and I, and Carlos was just taking it all in. We tried to get a good shot of Carlos in this cute little pumpkin outfit in the patch but he just wasn’t really having it, I can’t blame him, I wouldn’t want to sit in dirt and weeds too. It was pretty warm out that day and the we were all getting a little fussy so we decided to take a little breather under the tarps where they ended up having the corn pits. I swear to god those corn pits were totally zen for us and the kids, Emery was making corn angels and me and Krystal were just glad to be out of the sun and sitting down for a minute. After relaxing for a few minutes we decided it was time to go, Carlos was starting to get fussy, we were all hungry, and had to be back in town soon. We ended the trip with a stop at our favorite spot In-n-Out and a relaxing drive back into town. Overall it was a really great day, I loved getting to spend time with my favorite people and doing what I love- taking photos.

How can you not love this wildchild?
How can you not love this wildchild?

BBF: Bodega

A couple months ago I took one of my usual day trips to Bodega, toy camera in tow and as I was sitting on the beach eating lunch I just had to snap a couple pics. I really wish I was back here again. I love Bodega.

Goat Rock Beach, Bodega [Kodak Gold 200, taken with BlackBird Fly toy TLR]