Friday, October 29, 2010

TRICK OR TREAT! Spooooky Black Flower Photo Giveaway

This giveaway is now closed. The winner will be contacted!

Warning: I'm in the mood for puns. The last half of the Rangers' game last night was A Monumental Disaster. The person I desperately hoped wouldn't win Project Runway, won. The dogs did not come when we walked around the neighborhood calling and wafting bacon (which I ate on the way home). So be warned: Halloween puns will abound, no bones about it.

In many places around the world, the line between the physical and the spiritual realm is...thin. Blurred. One could even say, ghostly. Some tribes in Africa still feed poison to chickens to see if a woman is guilty of an accused crime (if the chicken lives, she's innocent. Go figure.). Food is left for ancestors to come eat in Japan, a traditional practice that survives in the tech-heavy culture. The Day of the Dead continues to reign in Mexico. 

Have you ever seen a ghost, or have you just been creeped out by campfire stories? There's the skeptics' take: "Haunted Hotels' Ghost Stories Good for Business," and there's the "oooh, fun, creepy!" take: "World's Most Haunted Castles."

Some churchgoers tell stories of loved ones seeing the departed come to retrieve them at the moment of death. And there's the strange Bible tale of the witch of Endor summoning the spirit of Samuel from the "abode of the dead," subject of a brilliant Halloween sermon I heard once (refresh your memory here.)

But the classic locale for ghosts and ghouls is The Castle. The haunt of many tourists, castles are mysterious, shrouded in murky history and tales of far-off revenge, torture, and intrigue. Just the sheer number of centuries they've stood, darkened stone passageways and shadowy dungeons, begs the imagination to run wild. I love memories of visiting Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Warwick Castle, and Dunvegan Castle. Did I see any ghosts? No...but then, I was there during the day...and the castles certainly were mysterious and awe-inspiring. I loved Warwick Castle, but my heart belongs to Scotland, and it is Scottish castles that continue to hold me spellbound.

What better treat this Halloween than to present you with a stunning photo of wild, untamed, Scottish landscape? You're welcome to picture gaunt, forlorn ghosts roaming the valleys, or to keep your mind firmly in the empirical, analyzing the meteorological conditions in the photograph. (Doesn't life always come down to choosing Kirk or Spock?)

Here is Amanda, giving us a glimpse of her photographer life. Whether she was in costume when she shared these answers, I have no idea. But I bet her camera, Betsy, was. Cheeky camera. P.S: Someday I, too, shall name a pet Smooshzilla. Who wouldn't?!?!

I think more people would get into photography if they all had cameras named Betsy. Your camera is named Betsy. How did you get into photography?

I got into photography when I was 4 or 5. Mom, who was forever taking photos of my sister and me, gave me one of her old Kodak Instamatics and that was that! I remember just being awed that I could take this little device, point it at something I thought was interesting, and be able to hold onto that memory forever. Mom’s mom – my grandmother – was also into photography, but whereas Mom primarily photographed people, Nana Kay primarily photographed everything but people – the fog rolling over cornfields in the Missouri Valley, her cats playing, Grampa’s hands as he played piano – so between the two of them, I learned quite a bit about serious amateur photography. It was also through observing them that I learned that cameras have personalities (there really is no other word for it). Mom shot with a newer Instamatic and Nana Kay shot with a Nikon, and they both produced very different types of photos. When I received Betsy (a Nikon) as a wedding present, it took me a while to learn her personality and how best to work with her. As crazy as it sounds, Betsy and I have a pretty great relationships – she’s full of attitude, and is far more adventurous than I. She also is good about getting me to slow down and see what’s beneath the surface, which I think is evident in the black-and-white flower photos.

 Do you think that digital cameras, easy access to Photoshop, and photo-happy sites like Facebook have "bettered" the art of photography, or flattened it?

 I love this question about the democratization of photography! Let me answer it this way: I love, love, love that people are using photography in ways that just weren’t possible before now – even 15 years ago, photo-sharing had to be done via hard-copy, cameras were still pretty expensive, and other types of technology (e.g., phones and music players) did not have to have a camera appended to them to be considered worthwhile. I think something very profound happens when we humans are able to preserve a slice of our experience. However, I do take issue with folks wanting to recreate one specific type of photograph instead of capturing their own experiences. I’m thinking in particular of the rise of those yellowed-out 70s-nostalgic photos that are so easily created through slapping on a few filters from an iPhone app and uploaded to Facebook or Tumblr. Can those photos be interesting? Sometimes, yes. But do those photos do what I think photography should do (which is to capture one’s unique experience)? Absolutely not.

Of all the photos you've taken, what's your favorite?

 There are a few of which I’m quite fond – not because they are fantastic photographs, but because they remind me of a specific place and time and emotion. This photo of my cat, Smooshzilla, reminds me of a gorgeous fall day in Illinois when the wind was chilly but the sun was warm. Smoosh woke up from a nap (and in so doing, woke me up from the same nap!), stretched, and began to clean herself. I’m sure I appreciated that little moment given the praying mantis I’d found on the sidewalk the day before. He was huge and very stately looking – but he was also quite dead. It reminded me of how fleeting life can be.

How do you get a picture to tell a story?

 To be perfectly honest, I have no idea. I think series of photos can tell a story, but getting one photo alone to tell a story is a tricky proposition because it lacks the context of the surrounding moments in time. I’ve talked with Mom about this quite a bit – in the black-and-white flower photos (the peony especially), she sees something entirely different than I. Of course we both see the same flower, but she cried when she saw it because she said it was so delicate that it released something and she couldn’t help but have a good, satisfying cry. I see it as very shy, just poking its head out into the light to see the world – it’s meek and it’s unsure of how it will be received. Instead of imposing a story or questioning this process that each viewer – like each camera – brings to a photo, I’ve become interested in why each person sees what s/he does.

What's one thing you haven't photographed that you really, really want to?

This is going to sound awful, but I have to answer truthfully: my husband! I’ve known that man going on five years and I couldn’t take a good photo of that man to save my life! I’ve taken many, many photos of him that are honest, accurate and truthful, but I’ve yet to get one that I’m pleased with. Nate, our brilliant wedding photographer, takes great photos of my husband all the time. I suspect it’s a matter of perspective. 
Black Flower Photos is giving this Scottish Highlands
Hills and Clouds 
print to one lucky Trick or Treater!

To enter, visit Black Flower Photos and 
leave a comment here about which photo is your favorite. 
Please include your email address.

One entry per person. 
Giveaway ends ("remember, remember") the 5th of November at midnight central time.
Winner will be chosen creepily via and has 48 hours to respond.


Anonymous said...

I would have to say it's a tossup between the West Scottish Highlands photo and the Flower at Covent Garden.

Julie said... really -love her photos
thanks for the giveaway

Judy B said...

I like Daylily...and Barn at Sunset.

judychrz at

Anonymous said...

Tough choice. I like the etching around the edge of the Hibiscus, but I also like the delicate frill on the Day Lily. Or, the randomness of the petals on the Echinacea is interesting. But I like hydrangeas so maybe I should choose the Hydrangea. Do I have to only choose one?

Lizbeth Brown said...

Hey, Liz Lemon rocks.

tina reynolds said...

I love hills and clouds and Mifflintown Bridge thanks for the chance to win