Category Archives: Photography

Midlife Angst: Trying Again

So, here I am starting something new. I’m almost 48 and feel a little too old to be starting over with something I know nothing about. I have decided to start a travel podcast. It’s called Tourist in Your Town. Head over to the website and check it out.

I know nothing about audio recording or editing. But I guess I’ll learn. I thought this might be a good thing for me to try. I love to travel and I love to talk about it. So, it seems a logical step for me.

I have 2 episodes out now and am having a great time with it! Give it a listen!

Rail yard in the Old City
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Midlife Angst Part 2

Continued from Midlife Angst Part 1

After school, I got a job that offered the opportunity to learn Photoshop. This was back in the early days of digital life. I started on Photoshop 2.0. There were no layers and you only go 1 undo. So, we would just save several different versions of the file, in case we screwed up or changed our minds. I did that job for several years. Then moved on to a job that allowed me to learn other programs, like Quark Express. Remember that? I was a pro at it. But I had an early midlife crisis (early 30s) and decided that I needed to work with animals. So, I quit my steady job and entered the world of animal rescue.

Wild Whiskers

Animal rescue is a rabbit hole that sucks you in. It’s a depressing world where you just want to scream and cry all the time. But there are those rewarding moments when you find that perfect home for a cat or dog or rabbit. If you are really lucky, that home isn’t your own. Yes, we have saved many. Some of them even went to live with someone else. But it didn’t take long for me to realize I needed a real job, making real money. Also, I got fired and had to move on (a story for another day).

The New York Times

I got an easy job where I just used Photoshop again. I was making great money doing it, too. Sure, I worked nights and weekends and holidays. But I was fine there. I had few issues with it. I had zero ambition and was fine being a Photoshop grunt for the rest of my days. Then, the shit hit the fan as they say. It was the newspaper business. If you’ve been paying attention, this world crumbled into a chasm of layoffs and mass exodus when the recession hit. Newspapers were still making money and profits. But they panicked and began lay people off in droves. I was not one of those people. Instead, I was left behind. My workplace was now bitter and everyone was terrified of showing up to work and the doors would be locked. Nobody was happy. I could not stand it anymore, so I decided I needed to move on. Maybe this was where I screwed up.

Fall up the stairs

This is when I got my “dream” job. There has never been a job more suited to a person than this job was for me. It was for a company that made pet products. My job would be to retouch the photos for packaging, advertising, etc. And do some product photography while coordinating lifestyle photo shoots. Of course, I had never coordinated anything in my life and had zero experience with product photography. But my Photoshop skills got me the job. After six months on the job, my ambition woke up and I wanted to be a photographer. I wanted to be the one taking the photos of the animals with the products. So, I started learning and doing. Life was good. Zoom forward to more recent times (2 years ago) and find me not so happy any more. Budget cuts made things difficult because we couldn’t get equipment or locations like we had previously. Also, even though I was now doing all the shooting, I was also doing the coordinating. I needed help. Cut to almost a year ago, I got fired. I was told my position was being cut. They no longer needed me. The real kicker? Two weeks later, they posted my job on the job sites.

Not so perfect fit

So what now? A dream I didn’t know I had has been destroyed. I was left hanging. I thought I would start my own business doing freelance commercial work. I thought I was ready. But, turns out, I don’t trust myself. I took the first job that came along. It’s a fine job. I now do product photography for a local restaurant supply company. I’m a grunt. Benefits aren’t great and I’m bored out of my mind already.

Thus the point of this whole thing. Where do I go from here? Do I rebury my ambition for more? Just squash down and accept my fate? Yes, I’ve tried looking for other jobs. But there aren’t very many photo careers available in my area. I could move, but my family is not ready for that at this time. And I really do like where I live. There it is in a nutshell. Stuck. In a hole of my own making.

No guts no glory

Stay tuned for future angst.

Midlife Angst: Part 1

I’m a 40+, closer to the just under 50 group actually and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I see young people, in their 20s and 30s, who know exactly what they want to do with their lives. They have a plan and they are following it. It can be depressing and frustrating for me to see people so put together when I feel like so lost and unsure. I know there are jokes about midlife crises for men and women. And there is teen angst. But right now, this feels like midlife angst.

Grain Silos by Sharon Popek
Grain Silos somewhere in Illinois

When I first started my “dream job”, over 6 years ago, there was a young co-worker who got a job offer from a different company. I could not understand why she would want to leave such a great place. She seemed happy and on a great career path there. But she explained that she had a specific plan. She had always planned to leave and go to this next level, it was just happening earlier than she expected. I understood it. But I didn’t “get” it. Because I never had a plan.

Train Station by Sharon Popek
Train Station

Well, that’s not true. In college, I had a plan. I would go to graduate school, get my masters and then become a tenured professor at a small private college. Lots of people are laughing at me right now. Go easy on me, at the time, it was not as pipe dreamy as it is now. Also, it was in Fine Arts, so no need for a PhD. However, I did not get into grad school. This left me dangling in the wind and maybe a little scared. But I was young and thought I’d just get a decent job and try for grad school the next year. That did not happen.

Roots in Bottles by Sharon Popek
Roots in bottles

I never tried again for grad school. Once I started working full-time, I got used to having things, like regular food and clothes and a bank account. Going back to school was not in the cards for me. Do I regret that now? Sometimes, but I am definitely NOT going back to school at this point in my life. So, it doesn’t matter, does it?

They say to keep blogs short and sweet, so I will make this midlife angst business a series for you to read over time. The images in this installment were all taken either in college or just after (over 25 years ago). 

To be continued…

Cuba Revisited

I recently went through my photos from Cuba. When I originally sorted and worked my images from that trip, I did not find these interesting. Or they didn’t represent what I was feeling at the time. I have to admit I don’t remember. But on the revisit, I fell in love with Cuba all over again. Enjoy these “new” images!

Rural Cuba

Images from a trip through the countryside. We visited a baseball team, a historic coffee plantation and farm restaurant.

Urban Cuba

I found myself fascinated with many different styles of architecture, including Art Deco, Colonial, and Spanish. They would often all be on the same building.

I hope you enjoy these images from Cuba as much as I enjoyed taking them! Prints are available of these and other photos from Cuba here.

As always, feedback is welcome!

In the Subway

As a person who lives in a place with little to no public transportation options, subways fascinate me. I have to admit that I find them a bit confusing sometimes. Take the blue line to the yellow line, then go to the green line, then back to the blue line.  When I was in New York, I bought a metro pass intending to use the subway more than I actually did. However, there was construction going on and trying to figure out what detours and where was more than I wanted to do. So, I walked just about everywhere. I would leave extra early and stop for a snack or a beer when I got tired. It did give me the opportunity to take lots of pics. Anyway, here are some pics from the little bit that I did spend in the subway. 

I feel like this person may have been on the wrong platform. Everybody was standing on my side of the platform. But there was this lone person way across the tracks. Maybe he was waiting for someone. But it adds a little mystery to this photo. It is definitely one of my favorites from the trip.

Waiting for the train at Penn Station by Sharon Popek
Waiting for the train at Penn Station

The mosaics in the subway were a favorite subject. Everybody around me was ignoring them and fighting their way out of the station. Don’t worry, I didn’t hold anybody up when taking these photos!

To Penn Station by Sharon Popek
The platform at Penn Station
Pennsylvania Station mosaic sign
The platform at Penn Station
W is for Wall Street by Sharon Popek
At Wall Street Station

And sometimes the entrance to the station is just as cool. This is the Bowling Green station entrance. The head house was constructed in 1905. Look at that clock! You know I love street clocks and interesting doorways. This station entrance has it all!

Bowling Green Head House
The exterior of Bowling Green Station

Always be patient when traveling. Sometimes plans change, but you can make that work for yourself. Leave early, take your time, and have fun!

Danville Kentucky

I grew up in Danville, Kentucky. Danville is located in central Kentucky, south of Lexington. It’s a small town loaded with history. Of course, growing up, I never paid attention to any of these things. Now, when I go back to visit family, I can’t help but seek these places out. I want to share with you some of the historic places and the places that hold meaning. 

Constitution Square

Constitution Square Historic Site was the birthplace of Kentucky’s statehood. The site originally had a meeting house, jail, and courthouse. The cabins currently on the site are replicas of the originals.

Meeting house in Constitution Square

Ephraim McDowell House

McDowell House Museum was home of the “the father of ovariotomy”. McDowell was the first to person to successfully remove an ovarian tumor. The story is fascinating. I recommend reading about it. Visit their website for more info.

Vintage apothecary bottles
A shelf full of McDowell’s potions.

Burke’s Bakery

While not technically a historic site, it’s definitely a landmark. Burke’s opened in the 1970s and is still going strong. With donuts, pastries, cakes, pies, cookies, and more, there is sure to something to make everyone happy. I’m a big fan of the gingerbread men. My mouth is watering just thinking of them.

Burke's Bakery and Deli in Danville Kentucky
The sign for Burke’s Bakery and Delicatessen

Courthouse

The courthouse was finished in 1862. The Italianate style building was erected to replace the original courthouse, which burned down. The large clock tower can be seen from just about every angle in town.

Boyle County Courthouse in downtown Danville Kentucky
The courthouse in downtown Danville, KY.

Danville Office Equipment

Another local landmark, Danville Office Equipment has been in it’s current location since 1975. They sell everything from pens to computers. They also have a service department that started out repairing old typewriters, but now offer service for copiers and printers. My father worked here for over 40 years. I worked there for several years myself. 

Danville Office Equipment in downtown Danville Kentucky
Danville Office Equipment on Main Street

I have been to many small towns in the south. See my Tuesday Trekkin’ blog for just a few of them. Danville is one of the few that still maintains that active hometown feel. Many towns are empty with closed up and shuttered shops and restaurants. It’s great to see a small town maintaining a vibrant, active downtown. 

Wrist Jewelry Photo Challenge

I run a weekly photography challenge group and this week’s challenge is wrist jewelry photography. Things have been a bit crazy for me, so I had to whip an image out fast. I like to use an example for people to see, so I had to have something. I found this old bracelet and did some experimenting with it.

Our Wisteria bush is blooming like crazy this year, so I thought I would use it as a background. I originally planned on just taking photos of the bracelet. But thought I’d do a quick pic with it on my arm.

This is the original image, before any work.
I applied a filter
The bracelet before I added the purple color
Selective color purple image.
The stones are now purple and really stand out. 

In order to change the color of the stones, I used hue/saturation in Photoshop. The color desaturation is done using a black and white layer with masks.

Feel free to share your own wrist jewelry images in the comments or share your link!

Silhouette Photography

For me, photography is about catching a moment. That moment can be a backlit street scene or twin church towers silhouetted by a setting sun. 

Taking a break at the Capitol Building in Richmond, VA.
2 people take a break at the Capitol Building in Richmond, VA. 
Central Park Trefoil Arch with people walking through.
People walk under the Trefoil Arch in Central Park. The shape of the arch is unique, the backlit people walking through gives it a little extra.
Saint Anne's Church towers on the Danube in Budapest.
The bell towers of Saint Anne’s Church are silhouetted against a setting sun.
A man in a hat silhouetted against window in Cuba.
A man takes a break beside a window in a museum in Cuba.
The Grattan Bridge silhouetted against a sunset in Dublin, Ireland.
The seahorses on the Grattan Bridge in Dublin, Ireland.

City Reflections

Most photographers love reflections. I am no exception. A great deal of my photos are street photography from cities and small towns. My favorite thing is take photos of window reflections. The images are a mix of what’s inside and what’s outside, giving it a sense of place and time. 

Macy's shop window reflecting tables and chairs in Herald Park.
Macy’s shop window reflecting tables and chairs in Herald Park.
A silver dress with red and orange leaves on the inside. City life on the outside
A silver dress with red and orange leaves on the inside. City life on the outside
A colorful tableau in Budapest, featuring a yellow and green phone booth and a well dressed mannequin.
The window of Cafe Gerbeaud in Budapest, Hungary
The window of Cafe Gerbeaud in Budapest, Hungary