Tag Archives: photography

Interview with Gale Zucker

Today, I’m sharing an interview with Gale Zucker. Many knitters know Gale as a knitwear/knitting photographer, but Gale is also a designer, teacher, and photojournalist. We attempted to meet up for an interview at Vogue Knitting Live back in January, but schedules were too crazy all around, so we opted for an email interview instead. (Gale was nice enough to stop by and say hi while I was working a shift at the Michelle’s Assortment booth, so we did get to officially meet.)

You can find Gale online on Ravelry (as SheShootsSheep and on her designer page), on her knitting blog, She Shoots Sheep Shots, on her website, as @galezucker on Twitter and Instagram, on Pinterest, and on her Facebook page.  You can read more about her Photography for Knitters workshops here. All photos are copyright Gale Zucker and used with permission.

 

GailZucker

Gale Zucker.

 

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started knitting?

Gale: I grew up in an extended knitting family. You’re female? You knit..and crochet, embroider, sew, you name it. The sound of needles clicking (always the metal ones) is the sound of my childhood. I really don’t remember who taught me first, it was either my grandma or mom. I knit as a little kid (poorly and impatiently), and then off and on through high school. Crochet was really big then for me, too. I did a lot of other crafts also. I like to make stuff. In college, knitting settled in as my go-to habit. I have been known to go off on other crafting binges, but I always have something on the needles. And..even though I keep saying knitting in answer to the questions in this interview, I also mean crocheting. Not trying to dis my hooking friends!

Putney Mountain Vest

Gale’s photo of the Putney Mountain Vest pattern. (Read more about her shoot here.)

 

UC: What first drew you to photography and photojournalism?

Gale: Here’s another “since I was a kid” answer, coming right up! I’ve always loved the storytelling power of photography, and memorized Life magazines that were around when I grew up. I started college majoring in Environmental Sciences but spent more time playing around in a darkroom than in a science lab. I switched to journalism school, with a photojournalism major. I wanted to be a newspaper and magazine photographer, which is what I did for many years before switching over to more commercial work.

 

Ellen

Gale’s photo of Ellen Mason wearing her Mary Rebecca pattern. (Read more about the shoot here.)

 

UC: When did you first combine your interests in knitting and photography?

Gale: I used to keep the two separate, although I kept on getting travel magazine and New York Times (at one time, my main client) assignments on farms. I jokingly started a portfolio called She Shoots Sheep Shots. Little did I know it would become part of my identity! In the early 2000s, I was doing a lot of work photographing youth at risk, youth in the judicial system, foster care for books and non-profits—and it was knitting that I turned to to de-stress when it got grim. I discovered knitting blogs and the new wave of knitting stores in 2004, so I started a knitting blog too and connected to new friends. (She Shoots Sheep Shots became my blog name).

In 2005, a book editor client asked me if I had any ideas for a book. She was expecting me to suggest some visually stunning social issue topic but instead, I blurted out that I wanted to travel around the country photographing fiber farms and show where yarn comes from, intentional lifestyles, and have knitting patterns at the end of each chapter. (The idea was met by dead silence and an incredulous “no..really? you don’t…..knit??!!) The timing for my idea was good, so we put together a book proposal that ended up becoming my book Shear Spirit: Ten Fiber Farms, Twenty Patterns, and Miles of Yarn from Potter Craft. Since then I try to bring knitting and photography together as often as I can.

 

Aria Tunic

Gale’s photo of the Aria Tunic pattern.

 

UC: You’ve collaborated with Joan Tapper on two books. How did you two come to work together? What was the development process like for the two books (or was each one quite a different process)?

Gale: As I was developing the idea and book proposal for Shear Spirit, I needed to bring a writer on board. I truly believe in recognizing your strengths and collaborating with others. I approached a very talented travel writer I’d worked with on some longer magazine assignments, and he agreed to jump in. Just as we were going to send the book proposal out to publishers, he called to say he’d had a great offer for two book contracts, and he needed to pull out of my proposal. He felt so terrible about it that he said was calling his former editor at National Geographic Traveler. He promised she would look at our idea and match me up with someone good, since she had the bead on all the top travel writers working. I was totally intimidated by her reputation. Ten minutes later, the phone rang. It was Joan Tapper, the editor from NatGeo saying “I love this idea! I’m not passing you on to anyone, I want to work on it with you!”

It was the best professional “blind date” ever – we work together really well and have become close friends. She lives in Santa Barbara, California; I’m in Connecticut. We email a lot, and talk on the phone, as we develop material. We have very different styles of working and organization but it make for harmony. (and she deserves an award for patience with me). Craft Activism: People, Ideas, and Projects from the New Community of Handmade and How You Can Join In was put together the same way Shear Spirit was–we research and compare notes via email and phone, we break down the tasks of making/producing a book and share them, we travel together to some of the subjects and separately to others. I am in awe of her writing and editing talents, and we have a very similar take on what we encounter.

 

Decibella

Gale’s Decibella pattern.

UC: How did you get started teaching photography classes for fiber enthusiasts?

Gale: After Shear Spirit was published in 2008, I received photo questions regularly from knitters saying how frustrated they were with their photography. It was at about that time that prices dropped on good quality digital cameras, and faster online connections became the norm for knitbloggers, and Ravelry started–so there was a real interest in better, bigger, eyecatching images for knitters & crafters. I noticed a lot of horrible photo information online–from overly tech-y talk that focussed on equipment more than vision, to outright misinformation, and mean-spirited blabbing.

I’d taught photography before at a community arts center and as a college level guest lecturer, so a workshop where I combine my two passions? No problem! I started teaching at some yarn shops- which I still do, all anyone has to do is email me and ask–and now I teach at knitting events, like VK Live and fiber festivals, and retreats. I’ve done two live webinars for Interweave, which were recorded and are available to watch and learn at your convenience.

Palisades Cowl

Gale’s Palisades Cowl pattern.

 

UC: Without giving away all of your secrets, can you share a few tips for those among us whose photos never quite live up to the beauty of our finished fiber objects?

Gale: My mantra: Keep shooting. Pixels are free. Which means, keep shooting, trying different angles, compositions, more shade, less shade, even if you think you’ve got the shot, try it from a different perspective. Don’t stop at “eh that’s good enough.”

The other most important tip is turn off your flash! There’s always a way to use natural light and keep that straight-on harsh flash from ruining your photos. Look for open shade, and light coming from the side to bring out texture.

 

mittens

Gale’s photo of mittens, a pattern by Theresa Gaffey.

 

UC: What are your favorite knitting and photography books in your collection (besides your own, of course)?

Gale: I have many photography books, and many knitting books but few that combine the two to suit my picky picky picky tastes. I had an Alice Starmore guernseys book that I loved–it didn’t matter that I’d never knit any of the sweaters in it, I wanted to be the woman in the images, on the rocky UK coastlines, and in pubs with sailors wearing oversized guernseys. That’s the kind of knitwear photography I love, that tells a story. Can’t take the photo journalist out of the knitter! The Brooklyn Tweed Wool People publications are gorgeously produced and I enjoy looking at Stephen West’s more recent images. They’re leaning more toward performance art with sweaters than anythng else, and are so very entertaining. And Carrie Bostick Hoge’s style is awesome. It’s way more quiet and subdued than I am, but I love it. I like anyone who creates a look and visual stamp–I find a lot of knitwear photography to be super formulaic. (Wow, I sound like a grouch. I’m not. You asked!)

 

Mason Dixon 2 , coats handknits, NYC

Gale’s photo of Metropole by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark.

 

UC: Do you have any crafty websites you frequent for inspiration or community?

Gale: SO MANY! Working from a home office, the online crafting community is my virtual coffee break and offers world-class procrastinating opportunity to this world-class procrastinator. These days Pinterest is often my launch pad to explore other sites, I follow a bunch of designers & artists who lead me all over. I still read a lot of blogs. I love a well-written blog.

 

Mason Dixon 2 , coats handknits, NYC

Gale’s photo of Yank by Bonne Marie Burns.

UC: What are you working on now, in the crafting/knit world?

Gale: So much! I feel like spring has sprung and I’m busting out!. I’m shooting more for indie knitwear designers and sweater companies. I’m incorporating some video work in, as I did for my client, Camp Kitschy Knits. I am pretty sure that is the first and only retro knitwear stop action video with original banjo-uke and concertina soundtrack.

I’ll be at TNNA, so anyone interested in talking to me about a photo project or workshop or something new and different can grab me there–I think I may even book some location photo shoots while in Indianapolis. And I’ll booth sit for friends at the show.

I’m still editing and getting out a book from my epic photo shoots at the NY Sheep & Wool Festival in 2010 and 2012. Pretty sure it’ll come out by the end of summer as an ebook and print, perhaps in an unorthodox format. Sneak peek video, here.

Joan Tapper and I are brainstorming new book ideas. Stay tuned there!

And more teaching! Check on my Photography for Knitters page to see more listings-I am nailing some very cool ones down now. And, Fiber College of Maine, one of my favorite annual events, Sept 3-7th. This year I’m co-teaching a Savvy Storytelling – writing + photography blogging workshop with the wonderful Beverly Army Williams, and a workshop that is a Photo Scavenger Hunt. The Gees Bend Quilters will be teaching there this year so we will have PLENTY to look at with our cameras.

 

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your story (and your pictures) with us, Gale!

Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 Interview Series: Ana BC from Lanas & Hilos

This post is part of my 2012 Hispanic Heritage Month interview series.

Today, I’m interviewing Guatemalan crocheter Ana Contreras, the bilingual blogger behind Lanas & Hilos.  I’m a big fan of Ana’s blog and the great pictures she shares of her projects.  Ana, also known online as AnaBC on Ravelry, is also a crochet (and, occasionally, knitting) designer.    Her patterns can be found online here.  All pictures are used with Ana’s permission.

Ana BC.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you learn to crochet?

Ana: My mom taught me how to crochet and knit when I was a teenager. I continued learning through books and magazines.  The funny thing is that now my mom calls me “teacher,” because I am sharing with her new techniques that I have been learning through my reading and internet research, which is mostly in English (and my mom is not so fluent in it).

Lately I have been crocheting more than knitting, maybe because I find it easier and faster.  But I actually love both.  Each has its own charm.

 

Ana's Circles and Stripes Blanket. (Click for blog post.)

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Ana: I would define my inspiration in two words: easy and modern.

EASY.  I confess I don’t like “difficult” when it comes my yarn crafts.  It has to pleasurable for me…it is a hobby, not torture.  Therefore, I am always looking for ways to make things easier and likable.

MODERN.  I am always looking for modern options of classic or old-fashioned styles.  Yarn pieces don’t have to be boring.

Both goals have kept my mind in a creative mode.

 

Ana's Wave Blanket pattern. (Click for free download.)

UC: Tell us about the crochet scene in Guatemala. 

Ana: In general, here in Guatemala, crocheting and knitting are considered crafts for grandmothers and older people.  But I think things are changing.  Younger people are wanting to learn to knit or crochet, because nowadays there are more modern patterns and options in the yarn crafts.  The yarn stores are now offering classes.

The problem that we have here in my country is that there are not many yarn stores; and the variety of yarn available is very poor.  But we learn to work with what we have, and make the most of it.  Personally, when I have the chance to travel, I love to make a stop at a yarn store and buy something special.  (But, how much yarn can you bring in a suitcase?  Not much!)   (UC comment: I love visiting yarn shops when I travel, too!  You can find shop reviews from my last trip here and here, and my Visitor’s Guide to New York City Yarn Shops here.)

 

Detail from Ana's Circle in a Granny project, along with her inspiration. (Click for blog post.)

UC: Tell us about your blog. Why did you decide on blogging in English and Spanish, and what are some of the challenges associated with bilingual blogging?

Ana: I started my blog a few years ago.  I named it “Lanas & Hilos” which is Spanish for “Yarn and Thread.”  I started blogging in Spanish, my native language. But later I started to connect and follow other bloggers in the world (from England, Germany, Holland, U.S., Canada, Israel, and Greece).  Then I thought of adding an English version to connect and share with them.

I kept the Spanish version because I know many of my Latin friends don´t speak English.  But adding English opened up the world for me.

 

Ana's Plaid Granny pattern. (Click for blog post with pattern & tutorial.)

UC: You have some great photos on your blog, and your own style of watermarking them that doesn’t look tacky. Do you have any advice for aspiring bloggers, especially on photography for those who struggle with capturing those perfect pictures?

Ana: From experience, I have a few tips for new bloggers:

  1. Keep it clean and simple.
  2. Show big pictures and keep the text short.  Most people don’t have the time to read long posts.
  3. Take your photos with lots of light, but not direct light.  Later, you can always PhotoShop them.  If you don´t have a computer program, there are a few free photo editors online, such as FotoFlexer, LunaPic, and PicMonkey (this last one is the one I usually use, and I love it).   (UC comment: I use PicMonkey a lot too, and it is really fun!)
  4. Watermark your photos (with the photo editor), preferably with a fading effect in order not to spoil the picture.  Believe it or not, people “steal” photos in the internet, and the watermarks is a deterrent.
  5. Share details of the pieces you are showing that might be interesting to readers, such as the pattern you used, and where you can get it, as well as yarn type, hook number, colors, etc.

 

Ana's Baby Boy Booties project. (Click for blog post.)

UC: Do you have any favorite Spanish or English language crochet or craft blogs to share?

Ana: There are too many to even mention.  Among my favorites are the ones I have on the sidebar of my blog.

I highly recommend searching blogs beyond “your circle of friends,” because there are a lot of new and interesting blogs opening every day.  Side bars are very useful in this way.  When you visit blogs, leave a comment.  Many of them will visit your blog in turn, and that is a great way to meet new bloggers and make new friends.  (UC comment: I completely agree.  It’s actually through a German blogger, Barbara from Made in K-Town, that I discovered Ana’s blog.  Barbara hosts a great monthly link party on The Crochet Boulevard and it is a great way to find crochet bloggers from all over the world.)

 

Ana's Baby Blanket Nina knit pattern. (Click for free download.)

UC: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Ana: Probably most people think of me as a crocheter, but I love knitting as well.  Actually I have been working on a knit scarf pattern, and I will share it with all of you soon!

Thanks for stopping by, Ana, and we’re looking forward to seeing that new knitting pattern soon!

I’m  blogging daily throughout October.  Visit I Saw You Dancing for more Blogtoberfest bloggers and CurlyPops for Blogtoberfest giveaways.  Search #blogtoberfest12 on Twitter.

3KCBWDAY7 – Crafting Balance

I know how to do most needlecrafts, but if you’ve been following my blog you will already know that crochet is my true love.  Not only is crochet versatile and fast, but, since it is the one craft that I’ve done pretty much continuously since I learned from my grandmother back when I was 9 years old, I’m much more skilled at it.  For that reason, I haven’t (yet) found a crochet project I really wanted to make that I couldn’t tackle.

In the six months, I’ve been trying to give a bit more of my crafting time to knitting.  Last year, I dabble briefly in embroidery and even tried to rekindle my quilting mojo.  For this year, though, I know I’m going to need to devote more time to photography.

My newest toy, er, I mean, tool: the Canon PowerShot ELPH300HS.

I really need to step up my photography skills.  Photography allows me to show off my creations to their best advantage, makes my blog more interesting to read, and is helpful in marketing my patterns and projects.  I have been taking out a few minutes everyday to take pictures since I got the camera.  I’ll admit, most of these pictures are pretty boring so far :).  But I’m learning a lot about composition this way!

3KCBWDAY2 – Photography challenge

 

 

 

The backstory: I usually schedule my posts during the week, but I thought it would be more fun if I posted during each day for Knitting and Crochet Blog Week.  Photography is something that I’ve been working on since I started this blog, and today’s challenge definitely had me stumped.  (I’ve already seen some great, elaborately staged pictures like Faith‘s, and wonderful collections like this one of awesome crochet fashion photography from Crochet Concupiscencethis morning.)

After following yesterday’s theme around the blogosphere, I started to notice that quite a few people were reluctant to use (or even fearful) of orange yarn.  Naturally, my stash hoarding self wanted to run out and buy some orange yarn to rectify that, and that’s where the orange monster (formerly of Weight Watchers fame) came in.  You see, I actually had my very own orange yarn that I’ve never even used sitting in my stash.  Yep, that’s a skein of Malabrigo Rios in Glazed Carrot that I bought at Knitty City last year.  So there’s no need to buy any more – yarn diet preserved.

Stashbusting and shooting (pictures, that is)

I’ve recently been hit by an attack of the granny square.  Perhaps (finally!) finishing the granny square blanket for my sister has reminded me of my tremendous love for grannies and of blanket-making.  In any event, since last week I’ve dug through my stash to work on several granny square projects for charity.

I revived this long-term charity blanket project on Saturday afternoon by adding some length to one strip and joining the two rows together.

(You can find a list of patterns I used for these squares in this post.)

I’ve also finished seven individual grannies, but I’ll save those details for Friday :).

A sneak peak of some of my finished grannies.

Besides the grannies, I’m working on some other scrappy projects which will eventually turn into pet blankets to donate to Bideawee.  I’m glad to finally be spending time working on my charity and stashbusting goals.  I dream of the day when another plastic tub of yarn will be used up, but there are a lot of granny squares and pet blankets between today and that day.

I finished The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest in the nick of time last Wednesday, by staying up reading until about 1 a.m.  The book was removed from my Kindle by the library before I woke up for work that morning.  You can check out my review on Goodreads.

As for what I’m reading now, I took some photo advice from Stacey at FreshStitches and decided to read my camera manual!  I got a new camera over the weekend, and I’ve been taking pictures pretty much non-stop.  Since I only know how to use the macro and normal modes, now is the time to get acquainted with all of the funky features.

On a related note, I’ve been thinking about doing a 365 project (taking and posting pictures every day).  This is to encourage me to use my camera more frequently and to, of course, improve my photography skills.  Has anyone done one of these before?  If you have, I’d love to hear your suggestions about where you posted your photos.  Did you use a blog, Flickr, 365 Project, or another site?  I should mention that I’m sort of cheap, which is why I haven’t just plunked down the twenty-five bucks for a Flickr Pro account, and am instead asking you all for free advice :).

 

For more Works in Progress, visit Tami’s Amis.  For more Yarn Along posts, visit Small Things.

Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class – Bullion stitch blocks, week 4, and more

(This post is part of my Year of ProjectsCrochet Master Class series. You can read the other posts in this series here.)

After weeks of ignoring my bullion stitch blocks, I finished one up on Friday.

My six inch bullion block.

Originally, my plan was to donate several bullion stitch blocks to Heartmade Blessings for the Crochetlist March 2012 charity challenge.  But after the unraveling fiasco when I learned that I couldn’t use black yarn, I wasn’t very motivated to restart my blocks.  This month’s Crochetlist charity is the Binky Patrol in Arizona, and the blocks are only supposed to be six inches.  So I actually had to pull out a few rows of this block to get it to the right size.  The pattern, Hybrid Peas by Margaret MacInnis, is way more exciting than this square would suggest, but a lot of the fun happens in the next few rows.

I also got a new camera yesterday!

I couldn't capture the camera itself in the picture, so I hope the box will do.

Since I’ve been blogging, sharing one camera at home has become a challenge.  I take most of my photos outdoors on the way to and from work or during the day, and that means that either I can’t take pictures when I need to or that MC can never have access to the camera during the day time.  After a bit of research, I bought the Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS on sale at Best Buy yesterday.  It is super tiny, which is great for my little hands.

Now how does this all relate to Year of Projects?  Well, one of my long standing WIPs is the camera case I started during the freeform class I took with Margaret Hubert.

This flower was intended to be the focal point for the case.

I never got too excited by the project because I have been thinking about buying a new camera for a while.

Here is an intermeshing swatch that will potentially be part of a camera case.

So hopefully by next week, I will have finished my new camera case (which will go over the store bought camera case I got so the camera could have some extra cushioning).  I still haven’t completely decided what to do about the rainbow trivet I started last week, but I’d like to have two finished projects to share.