#iwitness and Visual Storytelling

4:44 pm on the dot.

Musings on a Monday afternoon…
#iwitness. I’ve been a witness with a camera, professionally, for decades.

In just a few weeks we launch into Music Circus Season 2017. I’ve been company photographer there since 2005 and these intensive summers have been some of the proudest and most fun of my entire photography life.

My first show in 2005 was Beauty and the Beast. At intermission I just remember the sweat on my face and finally getting to catch my breath. I was breathless and stunned at what had just happened in front of me! I had no idea what it was going to be like, though I’d seem many shows there as a patron. It’s not the same when you’re trying to capture the action of 20-30+ people on a small round stage all singing and dancing and leaping with a 360 degree perspective. With theatre-in-the-round, which Music Circus is, there’s not a bad seat in the house!

As I look at this picture, shot several years ago as a publicity still for Music Circus, a California Musical Theatre production, of Bye Bye Birdie, I’m sometimes in awe of my own good fortune to photograph some of the coolest things ever!

Nathaniel Hackmann as Conrad Birdie in Bye Bye Birdie, produced by Music Circus, 2015. Photo © Charr Crail.

For example, I get to photograph art in the form of theatre. Sometimes it’s live and happening NOW. Other times it’s a set up and the performance is put on just for me while I aim my camera and snap the shutter. I LOVE it. And the second I choose the moment to click that shutter I’ve captured something never to be seen or experienced in quite the same way ever again. That’s the extraordinary beauty and profound delight of theatre. No two performances are ever exactly the same.

Visual Storytelling.  It may sound weird but it’s a lot like photographing live sports too. I’m looking for peak action and storytelling moments. For example, in any sport, football or baseball or basketball— you watch for the action, the touchdown, the homer, the slam dunk– you go where the ball goes. And even more than that— to do it well— you gotta anticipate the play to know where the ball is going to go. And then there’s emotion— who wins, who loses and how they react either way. Storytelling. That’s what we can do with our cameras.

So I guess theatre and football aren’t so different!

It’s pretty much the same in live theatre too — the movement, the emotion, the interaction, the peak moments,  the story outcome. What are the characters saying? Feeling? Experiencing? Get in touch with their emotions, watch their subtle body language and stay in tandem, your lens following along with them as they move across the stage. You may not know just where they’re going but you can anticipate loads by paying attention to their body language, their words and inflections, the emotional state and the storyline.

Oh, the things I’ve seen.  The art, the humanity, the creativity.

If I leave you with anything in particular it’s this. As a photographer you’re not just taking a picture— you’re capturing an experience you’ve witnessed.  How you capture it is dependent on far more than the obvious technical aspects of a camera.  The visual story you tell is happening inside you first– in your head, your heart, observations and your choices on when to click the shutter.  It’s your own interpretation of life and visual storytelling skills driving this show– The Photograph– one single shot of a moment you witnessed, now frozen in time, all because of you.

Hello again!

I’d like to Introduce myself again via this blog.  I’m taking on a 30-day challenge and here we go!  This is a bit of a stream of consciousness…

I’m a professional photographer and an artist with plenty of interests, which include making art and rad digital images, crafting, I have the perfect husband for me, I love raspberries and cream, whistling, Words with Friends, doodling on metal, sewing, movies and BBC anything, marbling on paper, making the kitties purr and my iPhone.  Not necessarily in that order and certainly not everything but you get the idea. I’m creatively influenced on a pretty constant basis and often text myself with ideas and inspirations with words and pictures. When I say inspiration is everywhere I mean it! Just look from where you stand and it’s right there!

Self Portrait made in the car with my iPhone. Check out my earrings! Old flash bulbs from waaaaaay back in the day.

Self Portrait made in the car with my iPhone. Check out my earrings! Old flash bulbs from waaaaaay back in the day.

So, speaking of inspiration— I use my phone to collect it most of the time so my cell phone has become a (visual) diary of sorts and I love making movies just for the joy of it too.  And I work a lot. Like A LOT! Probably because I am self-employed— photography, art, teaching— I think about business all the time and am always up to something. I occasionally joke that my profession is juggler. I work late too— I just have a lot of ideas and I guess I enjoy my work!

I’m just about to become a published author— I’ll have a chapter in a book very soon and that’s brand new info. I haven’t even told more than four people about that yet so woo hoo, you’re nearly the first to know. Of course there’s loads more to say about that be we shall save it for another post.

Lately, I have become, even more than usual, obsessed with my iPhone because not only is it fun but I love it so much I want to share with anyone who wants to learn all the crazy cool things I can do with it. It’s rarely ever two feet from me. I remember when I first got mine. I think it took me two weeks to get used to it but they were so new to the world!  I’ve been an Apple enthusiast from the early days and have never switched either.  I even stood arms length away from Steve Jobs while on a photo job once and even as he stood patiently looking deeply into my eyes expecting me to say something I was struck completely silent.  I could not utter a single word.  This was only one of two times that has ever happened to me-  I’m a pretty chatty person!  Email me if you want to know the story of the only  other time it happened… 🙂

OK, back to the iPhone– I was the very first person I know to even have one.  It was a strange thing at first but once I got the hang of it– wow.  It was several generations later before I even shot photos with it though– I think at first with the iPhone 3–when I shot a Def Leppard concert in 2007 with it and those photos were not bad at all!  Of course it helped that I was stageside.  But luckily as the camera has progressed, the pictures have improved and so has my passion for it. So much so that I’ve created classes about using it for photos and videos happening in September! If it sounds like something you are interested in you can find out more— Click Here!

That’s all for now folks!  Stay tuned for more of the All About Charr series of posts coming atcha.  🙂 #30dayblogrockstar

Sage Words and Snuggle Bunnies

Shared by my friend and colleague Richard Keith.    “Always remember, they can take what you have, but they can’t take what you know”.   His grandfather Albert Ellis Sr. would remind him of this throughout his life.  

The idea of “legacy” is on my mind constantly these days and it seems more and more everyday I am reminded by some event, some circumstance or some person how rich and important the idea of legacy is and how it affects us powerfully.  It’s not something that is in the forefront of our minds perhaps but so often we are acting on a legacy learned or heard as we move through the world.

On a video shoot with my husband yesterday a photographer friend Richard came along to be a partying extra.  As is so often the case we got into a very interesting conversation about the business of photography and life.  When he told me the sage idea his grandfather had passed along– now words to live by– I knew it was a legacy to share.  Thank you Richard.

And then there’s the legacy left yesterday as we spent an afternoon partying on video during the making of “Snuggle Bunny”, the first single off Chris Goslow’s newest album titled I Love You.  It was just a blast to watch too so here’s a look-see.

Video shoot for Snuggle Bunny at Tower Theatre in Roseville.  Chris Goslow with bunny ears and Matt Baker director and videographer.

Video shoot for Snuggle Bunny at Tower Theatre in Roseville. Chris Goslow with bunny ears and Matt Baker director and videographer.

Thanks to Matt Baker, the director, videographer and this great cast of characters who joined us who now have a great story to tell and adventure to remember how they spent a fun day singing and dancing and being immortalized in the Snuggle Bunny video!


Independence Day

It’s Independence Day, and a good day to sit back for a few and really contemplate the glory of freedom our forefathers gave us by banding together, seeing a new possible future and creating this amazing document to put it into action.  With the power of their belief, their conviction, tenacity and future thinking they brought forward freedom for all of us here in the United States of America.

I hope never to take for granted the joy of freedom I experience each day of my life.  Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness is truly mine.  If you have a few minutes consider re-reading this extraordinary and beautifully written document and imagine what it must have been like.  The passion, the fortitude, the exhaustive effort of these men who risked everything to do what they believed was right.  They changed our world here on this continent.  They said we needed freedom and they fought to make it happen.  Life, Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness.  I am very grateful each and every day of my life that I live in this great country.  Happy Independence Day!



The Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.


He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.


In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.


Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.


We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


Victorias home is beautiful– stylish, comfortable, homey, filled with air and light and the details, all carefully placed, revealing the truth of a good life thriving.  In her bedroom was this small and lovely painting an artist had painted of Victoria when she was just a child.  A lovely expressive memory of her life that is now framed on the wall and cherished.  I instinctively photographed it.  I think I knew in that moment I’d be making an art piece later, and so I did.  It’s one of my personal favorites.  Perhaps the directness of her gaze, the textures and strokes, the overlapping of youth and maturity all coming together.  A picture captures what we look like.  It’s perfect.  Ahhhh,  but the textures.  Interpretation is the invisible thing a painting can reveal in it’s thoughtful imperfection.victoria_charr-crail

Demi Lovato EndFest

Demi Lovato is a fabulously talented young performer and when I saw her backstage at the Endfest last year here in Sacramento I saw her as a living piece of art too.  Her hair was absolutely gorgeous with a mermaid quality both in color and length.  It had been dyed in gradations of blue, green to yellow.  Really incredible.  We were at the meet and greet prior to the show and in walks this sweet looking girl– Demi Lovato— with the incredible hair and as the headliner you can imagine the buzz around her.  She was very sweetly shy about the whole thing too and so gracious.  It was lovely to meet her, this sweet girl, in a swirl of chaos.  But wowie kazowie when she took the stage that night it was an entirely different woman who traversed the stage with star power and ownership.  And later, when I saw this performing photo in the ones I’d shot that night I was reminded of the iconic image of Raquel Welch in One Million BC— in the way she was standing and the powerful attitude.

demi-lovato-charr-crail demi-lovato-charr-crail

Do you Know How to Draw? Me Neither!

I don’t know how to draw, or so I think.  When I think of drawing I think of the great masters who can bring incredible reality to any face, the movement of elegant hands, perfection in every fold or wrinkle.  Me. not so much.  I doodle, and I guess I do draw but it’s just my own natural style.  My brain lately has been screaming at me like Sam Kinison– Take a drawing class, take a drawing class take a drawing class!  So loud too. Now I’m not boo hooing here.  I’m really here to say if you can’t draw or THINK you can’t don’t sweat it!  There are amazing things you can do and art you can make with no particular formal education or skills at all.  All it takes is a willingness to draw a line of two, a circle, or a curve.  It’s perfect whatever you do!  Because it’s you, uniquely you.  And then there are photographs. Oh yeah!  Photographs make an awesome foundation for App Art!  yes

Now let’s get to the second part of this.  Judgement.  Most of us, yes MOST of us no matter the apparent bravado many display, worry that others may think our artistic expression is not quite the stuff of Museum Worthy endeavors.  So what?  That’s just your brain buddy  protecting your ego.  Let that go.  The only reason I even mention this is because as I was uploading this image I had a similar thought but you know what?  So what?  Do it anyway.  I actually think it’s a cool image and that’s what matters.  Though I do hope you like it too and I really hope it inspires you to make some art and let go of self-defeating self judgement that might keep you from making or drawing or creating something cool and sharing it with me and anyone in the world.  How’s that for a dose of artist reality?  Truth.  Now go make a cool doodle and sit back to smile at your handiwork. xxookim

My friend Kim, shot with my cell phone and artistically manipulated in at least two different apps.


App Attack! Inspired by Roseville Tower Theatre


Art is my job.  Wait, Art is my hobby, no my job, no, my hobby… Woah there… it’s both!  When I’m not shooting pictures and doing design or retouching or teaching workshops I’m making art.  And lately I am ALL ABOUT THE APPS!  So many awesome things to play with on my iPhone and my iPad it’s making me crazy happy.  I take a picture, I play with it in an app, then open it in another app, then I may even open it up in Adobe Photoshop on my computer and tweak it just a bit more.  Woo hooooooo baby.  App Attack!  Here’s one from a iPhone photo I shot of the Tower Theatre in Roseville California last weekend.  I adore neon, who doesn’t.  And I’ve run the picture through two apps and Photoshop and then added a piece I cut from a drawing I did in a third app to create the border.


App-solutely! App-mosphere to Blog-o-sphere…


(Image above is the original drawing, see bottom of post for the version discussed in this post)

Apps! I have so many of them they take up most of the space on my iPhone and iPad. But I LOVE them! There are incredible things out there for the creatively insatiable like we are. And even though the results of the art we create on the mobile devices may not be magazine quality/dpi it doesn’t mean we can’t use them to make art or to embellish our art. App-depending you can still get a decent quality out of most them I have found. And if not I’ve found I can tweak later and make it work.

I’m a digital artist… duuuuh. But I have found a couple of apps that I think are brilliant and monster kudos to their creators who took their time and brilliant genius to get them into the app store at .99 a pop so I can do and create things beyond my scope of abilities in Adobe Photoshop.

This particular image is a hybrid of one brilliant App and a pretty amazing website I was turned onto.

The website is http://www.mrdoob.com. The site has been around for years and has some amazing things on it but the one I enjoy when in a doodling mood is Harmony. I have no idea what the creator did, how it works, only that it does brilliant craziness and I love the results. I simply make a drawing, do a screen grab, open up the drawing in Adobe Photoshop and away I go– adding color, altering lines, drawing in faces and more line.

This image was originally drawn on http://www.mrdoob.com, then saved to my photo stream. The additional wave of fun is due to a hippie dippie App that makes me insanely happy called Phototropedelic. Psychedelic and fabulous if you ask me. Do a little button and numbers selection dance in there and bingo bongo, next stop Photoshop where I dialed in some color and a few more minor adjustments. Ta daaaaa!

I like to create for the sake of creating, don’t you? It’s how I learn. Trying things out, seeing what it will do. WHAT IF… That’s the game. If you haven’t yet why not play it with me? I’d love to see what you’re up to, please share and I just may post it! xxxooostickface