Lighroom and Photo Reorganization Day

Found this little gem while reorganizing my Lightroom catalogs and image folders. I’ve also been looking at a lot of Martin Parr‘s imagery which I think may have had an influence on my picking this one out today.

(Warning – Lightroom geek talk ahead)

For the past few months I’ve been experimenting with some different Lightroom catalog organizations, and today I reorganized it all again. (Note: Don’t try this at home, unless you are already comfortable with understanding the relationship of LR catalogs to folders on your hard-drive. I’m outlining my thoughts here to provide you with ideas for how to organize your work, not as a tutorial on LR catalogs.)

I have been using Lightroom since its first release in January 2006, which luckily for me, closely coincided with when I got back into photography as driving by the maturation of consumer-priced digital SLRs.  (As an aside, my first digital camera was the 8MP Canon Rebel XT (EOS 350D) which I used until the release of the second generation Canon 5D mk II in November 2008. In March 2012 I was an early adopter of the Olympus OM-D EM-5 and I have been shooting Olympus OM-D models ever since.)

For all these years, I have been organizing my photos into folders by year and subfolders by date. This worked well for the most part, but catalog backups and Lightroom startup times were starting to creep up. In addition, as my library grew it was becoming more difficult for me to find specific photos (I’m not very disciplined at applying keywords). I also started to travel in 2011 and each trip would add another large collection of images that I would pretty much want to find by location. So earlier this year, on the suggestion of a friend, Carl – you know I’m talking about you, I went through and created a separate catalog for each trip. I also divided my large non-trip related photos into two catalogs, arbitrarily picking 2015 as the dividing line.

Breaking up my catalogs into smaller pieces certainly fixed the catalog sluggishness I was experiencing. It also was good for some very specific situations. Say I wanted to review all my images from Japan. I knew exactly which catalog to open. There was a one problem however. If I wanted to pull together a set of images that were not connected by trip or year, I would have to open and close several catalogs to gather together all my images as exports onto my hard drive. I could not use the LR collection function to pull together a loose set and then reorganize and cull from there. In other words, it was a pain.

So today, I decided to swing back the other way, back to larger catalogs again. I also decided to reorganize my folders by subject areas instead of just by date. Here is how it goes now.

Today, I now have 2 catalogs, General and Travel.  Within Lightroom, I then rearranged the folders on my hard drive by category and then by date. Remember to do this within Lightroom so that you don’t have a mess of “?” unfound images when you are done. Heed my early note, “don’t try this at home” unless you really are comfortable with your understanding of the relationship between your hard drive folders and a catalog folders.

My Travel catalog goes to my “Travel” folder which has a sub-folder for each trip and subfolders by date under that. For example: Travel\Cuba\2013-01-30. My General catalog goes to my “General” folder which is organized into subfolders based on what I do most and then date-organized beneath each subfolder.


  1. Street SoCal
  2. Fairs and Dog Shows
  3. Workshops
  4. Projects
  5. Misc
  6. Film Scans

What will be most interesting is how this organization works out when I start to import photos. I will definitely need to be a little more attentive to the import dialog.

And hey, I found the image at the top of this post during this reorganization process. Sort of made it all worthwhile.


The Unposed Portrait – My Challenge


I want to talk about unposed street portraits. I do not intend to start a debate, though this may indeed start one, it is just how I feel about the work I want to do.

When traveling to a “far away place”, whether literally far away, culturally different, or just to an event with dress-up costumes, there is a strong seductive pull to take posed portraits. You may ask your subject to move into the light, change to a different location, turn their head, or perform a particular gesture. These posed portraits can be striking and fun and I’ve seen many photographers fill their portfolios with these posed images of exotic faces in exotic places.

For me, however, posing has never been my thing. I’m not sure if it is because I am bad at posing and communicating with a subject or if I deep-down believe that the posed portrait is missing a more deeply authentic expression. So while in Mongolia I made myself a challenge – no posed portraits.

As we gathered around and photographed the beautiful and generous people of Mongolia, herders and families, many would freeze in a stern face as if they only new of slow film requiring long exposures. While the group began to photograph, I laid back  and waited for the release in the tension, looking for the in-between moments when they let their guard down. I looked for the breaks in the stoney expressions, a caring glance toward a family member, or the far away stare into the vast country side.

Here are a few of the unposed portraits that I captured.


The Beginning – Impressions of Ulaanbaatar


It is difficult to describe the beginning of an adventure while the end is most present in my mind and my dreams are still filled eagles, yak, and the sour-musty smell of dried yak yogurt-cheese (I have never before experienced dream smells.) Here, however, are my first impressions of Ulaanbaatar, where my 14-day through Mongolia began.

The trip started on the final sliver of moon mid-September in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia. After 24 hours of mostly uneventful airline travel from LAX to Beijing with a transfer on to Ulaanbaatar (or UB as the locals say), I first met Buugii and Yonda at the airport on the east side of the city. I had yet to fully realize their role in our adventure: Buugii as guide and camp mom and Yonda as driver in Van #1.  In the parking lot on this pleasantly warm 70+F degree day, Yonda was greasing the front axle of his pale green-grey vintage UAZ 469 or “Buchanka”. To me it looked sort of like a VW van. They are apparently mechanically very simple, last forever, and, as I experienced, can traverse almost any terrain.

After being dropped off at the hotel, I went for a walk through downtown UB. I was hardly prepared for what I saw with its hustle and bustle and the contrasts of old Soviet buildings, shed-based shops, and modern high-rises with a busy street life showing both traditional and modern fashions. And the traffic! Mongolians are truly crazy drivers. I walked an hour or so to the center of town and back to the Kempinski Hotel Khan Palace and tried to capture a few scenes of a city and people very unused to seeing camera wielding visitors.


Compose and Wait – A compositional How


As part of my lecture series at Thousand Oaks Photo Group I have covered a lot of topics:

Light, Color, Line, Perspective, Gesture, Movement, Point of View, Layers, Scale, Placement, Simplicity, Figure Ground, Repetition, Framing, Still Life Linked to a Scene, Portraits of Place, Environmental Portraits, Personal Access

These are all things that can be observed in the final image. The “what” of composition. This past meeting, I wanted instead to talk about the “how”. How do you achieve one of those compositions that effectively use these compositional grammars. My answer, and the answer I have learned from others (including my photo mentor Sam Abell) is to “compose and wait”.

It is really quite simple to describe:

  1. Compose a background.
    • It must be interesting, aesthetically photographic, and include a opportunity for action to occur.
  2. Establish your position, framing, and settings
    • What will be in or out of the frame
    • What focal length will you choose
    • What aperture, shutter speed, ISO – will it require exposure adjustments?
    • Study the relationships between object and plan for where your action will occur
  3. Wait for the moment
    • Let the action walk into you frame
    • Identify the moment within the gesture that will best tell the story
    • Try to anticipate the next movement and be ready

Or if you want to see it in a cartoon (I had a little fun with this)





I have already written a couple posts showing how I do this in action – go look at them now.

For another example, here is a set of images that I shot with a fixed 35mm lens while sitting on a bench at Laguna Beach. I was just sitting there, resting with my husband. These images were captured over the course of about 20 minutes. They show the varied kinds of resulting images that are possible when you compose and wait for the moment.







Many Heads


I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past few weeks preparing for a lecture to the Ojai Photo Club on personal documentary projects and editing and refining a set of 17 prints for a gallery opening at the Four Friends Gallery on Sept 7th (1414 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Suite 111, Thousand Oaks, CA  91362 –  opening reception from 5pm – 9pm).

It always amazes me how different people get drawn to different photographs. Here is a photograph that was passed over for a project when I originally took it. However, while preparing the edit for the gallery display: City of Angels – casual observations of the life and life-styles of downtown Los Angeles, this image was a must have.

I remember being drawn into the repetition of heads and the three feet sticking up over the $1.99 sign.


Something Different


I’ve been watching the show The Mind of A Chef. Over the course of a season, about 8 episodes are dedicated to an in-depth, first-person, look into one of the pre-eminent current chefs-restaurantuer. These are chefs in the prime of their careers and each has an extraordinary focus and command on the detail and food experience. And although they have all found their unique expression through their unique food, the shows also document their thrill and joy in sharing other food experiences of both high and low food.

I thought about these chef’s ability to think beyond their focus and to appreciate other perspectives, as I prepared these three images for the Ojai Arts Center in 2017 Photography Brach exhibit this June. Each year the Ojai Photography branch hosts a month-long juried show. The shows are always themed and the themes are often conceptual and artists are encouraged think openly about their interpretation of the theme.


This year’s theme is The Animal Kingdom, which seemed straight forward enough even for a street photographer like myself. Then I read the fine print. The emphasis this year is to pay homage and honor the animal kingdom during this time of ecologic uncertainty. Now I had a bit more of a challenge since most of my images of the animal kingdom show man’s domination over animals: dog shows, tagged cattle grazing on the side of the road, or giant swan-shaped boats on a lake.

Then I remembered a set of images that I took of three great Lusitano show horses being allowed to run off some energy and show their grace and power in a barn in Portugal. These horses were magnificent and, being a street photographer, I had to really put my thinking hat on in order to capture their magnificence with my limited horse-photography skills. What I arrived at was a series of abstracts. However, these images have sat dormant on my hard-drive as I never quite found a venue to show them off. Now, at last I have an opportunity to honor these horses and their trainer, Carlos Oliveira, who tragically passed in 2016.