What is Storytelling?

What-Is-Storytelling
Really, what does it mean? Telling a story with a picture, a video, a paragraph of text, a website?

The difference is feelings. Touching hearts. The recognition of humanness: I am part of this and this is part of me. I get it! Or: They get me! Energy. Imagination. Feeling connected and less alone. Braver, maybe. Part of something bigger.

Authenticity, imperfection. Genuine, unstaged and unscripted. Moments. Messy and real and human and honest. Soul. That’s the difference. Created from a place of truth and courage. And people can’t help but recognize it and be drawn to it.

There are two donut shops on my way to work. Both have a signpost. One reads: Berkeley’s best donuts. The other one: Donuts: The juiciest sin of your day.

Storytelling.

It’s a pair of worn, aged, muddy work boots next to a pair of tiny pink ballerina flats standing by the entrance door. It’s a tray of cookies fresh from the oven, one missing, and a little hand sneaking in… The genuine smile of a happy moment versus the empty smile in a posed portrait.

The Patagonia mission statement: “Committed to Uncommon Culture. We prefer the human scale to the corporate, vagabonding to tourism, the quirky and lively to the toned-down and flattened out.”

Storytelling.

(Comparison. The Exxon Mobile mission statement reads: “Continuously achieve superior financial and operating results while adhering to the highest standards of busin…”) Did you fall asleep? Yeah. Me too.

The opposite of storytelling: Unsurprising, uninspired, unimaginative. Empty. Expected. Playing it safe. Business jargon. Perfection, sterility, façade, machine-made, conformism.

It’s why I’m so certain that we need stories: They help us remember that we are human. That we’re in this together. And that we’re so much more alike than we are different.

Food Photography – Behind The Scenes

Frank comes home from a long week of corporating and I ask him can you help me with a video shoot on the weekend and he just drives me around town all Saturday and rents me a trailer and loads it for me and the question if I deserve all of it doesn’t even cross his mind while it’s the prominent and permanent one on mine.

And on Sunday I hand him a camera and I ask: Can you film like this. Handheld and lots of rack-focusing and shallow depth of field. And he says I don’t know but I can try. And on Monday, I check his footage and I laugh. Cause it’s all handheld and lots of rack-focusing and shallow depth of field. And then it’s so much more than that and I just feel helplessly overwhelmed with awe and gratitude.

And my friend Laura. I text her, can you be my model. It’s a video shoot and it’s kind of totally last minute. And she replies immediately. When should I be where and don’t you worry and I’ll get a hand treatment. And then this: Oh, I am so excited. And she shows up and just gets to work and carries me.

What is it with this beautiful world? Seriously: How is it this kind and beautiful and this full of love?

Here is a little trailer:

At Home in the World

Of rainy days and cold nights and loved people and a journey home. Of sparkly lights and gratitude and longing. Of friendship, more than anything. Of feeling lost and of suddenly and unexpectedly and all-encompassingly, feeling at home in the world.

 

Made with Love

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time making and taking pictures of food. I started because I needed to build my portfolio and then I got crazy passionate (=obsessed) about practicing and getting better.

The pictures below are my favorite ones from these past few months. A lot of the dishes are Vegan, all of them are dairy-free and gluten-free and made without refined sugar. Kind food. Made with love. Made to help us feel loved and made to help us heal. If you’re curious about the recipes, I posted a l lot of them on my Instagram feed. A few of them have also been published on The FeedFeed. Or just ask me and I will happily and proudly let you know how something was made.

And so, as I wrap up this chapter, I wish you this: I wish you food made with love and I wish you time to savor it. Most importantly, I wish you absolute certainty in knowing that you are worthy of both. <3

 

Photography – A Checklist

Photography-Checklist

Do you get stuck when you take pictures, because the photo doesn’t look as amazing as you would like it to? I do. All the time. To figure out what I need to change, I go through a checklist in my head. I thought I’d share that list with you, hoping it gives you a system for analyzing your pictures and figuring out what aspects need more work.

Object/Subject/Scene:
Photography starts with seeing. When we can see the beauty of an object, a scene or a person, we’re half-way there. Conversely, if we try to take a picture of something that we can’t see the beauty of, taking an amazing picture is somewhere between difficult and impossible. So: We have to see beauty first.

Composition:
Shapes, arrangement, angles, scale, proportions, distribution, crop. Camera position, camera angle, focal length, focal point, depth of field, motion blur. Textures. Background to object/subject ratio. Background to object/subject contrast.

Color:
Tonal range, gradient, complementary colors, color ratio, color pattern, interrupting color, dominant color, color blocks, color chaos, black and white.

Light:
Number of light sources, daylight or studio light, number and position of reflectors/flashes, light temperature, light intensity, light direction, contrast, highlight intensity, shadow intensity, exposure.

Story:
Soul, human-ness, authenticity, imperfection, history, association/reference, a wink, a hidden smile, inspiration, emotion.

Post Production:
Adjusting exposure, contrast, saturation and individual colors to communicate a specific mood.

I could work on this list for weeks and it would still get more exhaustive and cohesive, but I think it’s a good start. I would absolutely LOVE to hear what you would add, challenge or change. Please let me know if something needs more explanation, too.

Wishing you good light, always.

Family Portrait: Ranchers and Farmers

When my friend Susanne asked me to take pictures of her beautiful family, I spontaneously and immediately loved the idea. I haven’t done much people photography in the busy-ness of the last few years and I had started to really miss it.

We all fell in love with the idea of a ranch setting: California land, rolling hills, golden grass, a winding trail, weathered wooden fences and a winter sunset.

Susanne and her husband Tom picked the most adorable outfits and prepared their kids, Liam and Annika, by telling them they were going to be Ranchers and Farmers for the day.

The ice broke because cattle kept walking into our picture, because we laughed about avoiding the piles of cow poop, because the little ones watched the horizon through spy glasses and because Liam got to pull his sister up and down the trail in a wooden wagon. When it all started to feel like a big outdoor family adventure, we got these pictures:

Winter in the Grand Tetons

Frank and I (and Finn, of course!) spent two beautiful winter vacations in the Grand Tetons. We stayed at a ranch in Swan Valley, skied in Jackson Hole, visited Yellowstone National Park and snowshoe-ed and cross-country skied wherever the snow conditions would let us. (And a lot of times also where they didn’t…) Go visit if you ever get the chance. It’s a magical place.

 

Equestrian Photography

“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”  ~Winston Churchill

Back in 2004 when Frank and I first moved to California, I started a business called “Bay Area Equestrian Photography.” Moving thousands of miles away from home was an exciting adventure, but America was also a new world whose differences I didn’t fully understand. Far away from everybody I knew, a language I didn’t speak fluently… I’m eternally thankful to the people who, at the very beginning of this journey of building a company, gave me a chance and went out of their way to support me in this dream. Because of their belief in me, their generosity and kindness, I had the courage to keep going. I will never forget or take for granted how strong they made me.

These pictures are my favorite ones from that very beginning: