Archive for the ‘photography’ Category

Photographer Returns for More Mountain ‘Magic’

June 23, 2012

"It's the people who brought me back to the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program," said Paula Harding, photographer.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“There’s something magical about this mountain,” said Paula Harding, 20, photographer for the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program, when she arrived yesterday. “But it’s the people who brought me back.”

The Idyllwild Arts Summer Program attracts many talented young people from across the country to work as camp counselors, teachers assistants and instructors. Once they work here, they’re likely to return.

This year, some are spending their 5th summer at Idyllwild Arts. This is Paula’s second year.

Famous instructors from the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program include Ansel Adams, Bella Lewitsky and Ray Bradbury, who passed away this year.

To get the job originally, Paula got a good recommendation from her high school teacher who also worked as a Summer Program photographer.

“She actually worked here when Emma and Bruce McMenamin were just camp counselors!” Paula said. “She’s so jealous that I get to come back to Idyllwild again this year!”

Tall and stylish with a Southern drawl, Paula is well liked by her fellow campers.

“OMG it’s Paula!” several of them screamed as the van pulled up to her dorm.

From Paula Harding's award-winning 'Abandonment' series

“We just love her!” exclaimed Gigi, a lifeguard last summer, but a camp counselor this year. “She’s a Georgia peach!”

Although Paula is friendly, she does her best to stay “invisible” when she’s working. Her day starts at 8 a.m., and she does the rounds to all of the classes, which can be as many as 15 when summer is in full swing.

After  class time, Paula attends lectures, art shows, plays and musical performances. Oftentimes, her day ends at 8 p.m. She turns her digital photos over to Bruce McMenamin, who crops them and decides where to best use them.

On an average day, Paula shoots 500 photographs. Last summer, she shot a grand total of 40,000 photos.

“Of course, they don’t use them all!” she said, as she was looking over the printed version of the adult class schedule. Bruce had sent her several copies in the mail. “Bruce said that I’m the only one whose shot that many!”

Paula used an old box camera for this photo in her 'Abandonment' series

Paula said that Bruce doesn’t expect her to take that many photographs, but she always wants to put her best foot forward. They both agreed that her photos got increasingly better as the summer went on.

“You just never know with photographs,” Paula said. “You can capture a moment that is special, but you have to take a lot of photos to get there.”

Besides the printed class schedules, Paula’s pictures are featured on the web site, and even in a Family Camp multi-media presentation.

Last year, Paula said the Family Camp slide show was a nail-biter.

“I was uploading photos until the last minute,” she confessed. “I wanted to put in as many current ones as I could.”

The 20-minute show had to be set to music, and minutes before it began, the equipment didn’t work.

It was mostly “operator error,” because she wasn’t familiar with the equipment. But the show went on without a hitch, except one family’s photos were left out.

“This year, I’ve learned from my mistakes, and I’m going to work from a master list of Family Camp members, and check them off as I go. I’d hate for anyone to be left out again!”

“It’s the best job on the mountain,” Paula exclaimed. “I don’t have to go to meetings, and I get to see firsthand what everyone is doing at Idyllwild Arts.”

'Abandonment' series by Paula Harding

You would think that after taking as many as 500 photos a day, Paula would want to do something else in her free time.

“I love taking portraits,” Paula said. “But landscapes are challenging for me. I’d like to take more of Idyllwild. There’s so much natural beauty all around me!”

For the daily shoots, Paula uses the school’s Nikon digital camera, but prefers Canons for her personal use.

“Overall, Canons deliver warmer tones, while Nikon’s colors tend to be cooler,” Paula said.

Although she’s modest about her photographic abilities, Paula has won many awards, in high school and in college, including a recent one for her “Abandonment” series. For those, Paula took pictures of abandoned buildings and people.

Was she referring to the homeless in Atlanta?

“Not exactly,” she said. “You’ll have to look at them and see.”

To view samples of Paula’s work, visit the Idyllwild Arts web site at, and click on the Summer Program, and then select the Youth or Adult Course Catalogs. On Flickr (, Paula won “Best Use of B&W” for the “My Atlanta” photo contest.

Paula also plans to show some of her photographs during the staff art show this summer at the Parks Exhibition Center. She doesn’t have a web site set up yet, but you can reach her at:

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.



Student Photographer Heads to Nairobi

March 11, 2012

Portraits of street artist/activist Shepard Fairey by Sidney M.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

She’s always carrying a camera, taking pictures of her friends or capturing Idyllwild’s natural beauty. On weekends, young couples pay her to shoot their weddings.

And when street artist Shepard Fairey came to Idyllwild Arts, she got five minutes alone with him.

As a photography student at Idyllwild Arts, Sidney knows what it takes to be good.

However, in June, she’ll be traveling outside her comfort zone on a 2-week missionary trip to Nairobi, Kenya. It’s sponsored by her church, Community Christian, in Hemet.

“There are one million people in Nairobi living in one square mile,” Sidney said. “We’re going to help improve their living conditions.”

According to various web sites, Nairobi is the most populous city in East Africa, with an estimated population of 3 million.

To help fund the trip to Nairobi, Sidney must raise $3,600. With her freelance gigs over the past year, (in addition to her academic and arts classes), she’s earned most of it, but she’s about $1,500 short.

So she’s offering 15-minute photography sessions for $25, which is much less than her normal $100 asking price.

“For these sessions, you can bring a friend, your pet, props or a change of clothes, if you’re quick about it,” Sidney said.

Sidney asked Shepard to lean forward for a stronger statement

Portraits appear to be her forte, capturing the essence of a person. For more samples of this, visit

With Shepard Fairey, she worked with him to get the right shot. She set him against a gritty black wall and asked him to lean forward.

“I think it made a stronger statement,” she said.

Recently, she photographed a young mother-to-be in a sheer blue lingerie, exposing her protruding belly.

She said that the couple was so excited about the baby, they wanted to capture every moment. A sample of that portrait is also on Sidney’s blog site.

Yesterday, she planned to photograph a few Idyllwild Arts students at the the Nature Center. Sidney picked the Nature Center (which is popular for weddings) because of its privacy, natural foliage and ample light.

So far, only a few students and locals have signed up for the mini sessions, but Sidney is confident she’ll get more as she announces them on Facebook.

In Nairobi, Sidney will be taking hundreds of photos of the locals.

“It’s going to be a lot different than taking pictures in Idyllwild,” she said somberly.

All of the details haven’t been worked out yet, but Sidney also hopes to get an art grant afterwards so that she can make a Nairobi slide presentation.

“Those photos will help tell their plight,” she said.

In the meantime, Sidney is working hard to line up the 15-minute mini sessions, until she reaches her $3,600 goal.

For more information on Sidney’s photography, call (951) 760-8754 or visit

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Action Photographer Helps Idyllwild

January 10, 2012

Fire near Black Mountain Sunday. Photo courtesy Jenny Kirchner.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The emergency dispatch call came in at 2:53 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 8. There was a fire burning on Hwy. 243 off Black Mountain Road near Pine Cove.

By 3:30 a.m., she was on the scene taking pictures next to the fire trucks. By 5 a.m., she had posted two of the best fire photos on Facebook and emailed them as a warning to others.

She also sent copies to the Idyllwild Town Crier and other media outlets to post on their web sites as “Breaking News.”

You could say that Idyllwild freelance photographer Jenny Kirchner thrives on chaos.

She spent three years as the main photographer for the Idyllwild Town Crier covering fires, accidents, natural disasters, and crime. At that time, she was using all of her own equipment, but purchased a police scanner and GPS device to help her to be first on the scene.

However, it was her “softer” photos of Idyllwild School kids playing soccer that won her national journalism awards.

Now that she’s a freelancer, Jenny can’t stay away from the natural disasters. Her best friend, Jill, is a dispatch operator in the desert who lets her know when things are unfolding.

“It’s a thrill being so close as things are happening,” Jenny admits. “But I also like knowing that my photos are helping people.”

She remembers grumbling to herself at 5 a.m., with no sleep, that people better check their emails about the fire in the morning.

The fire photos she sent out went to homeowners in the area, and van drivers from Idyllwild Arts Academy who were going down the hill early Sunday morning. (Jenny is also a part-time van driver for Idyllwild Arts). Julia Countryman is both a homeowner and a van driver.

Jenny captured the intensity of the fire in the early morning. Photo courtesy Jenny Kirchner.

“I saw Jenny’s pictures before I left for Ontario Airport Sunday morning,” Julie said. “And told my daughter that if the fire comes over the ridge, we’re evacuating.”

Since Jenny’s posting, there were several reports of the fire online, but none had her spectacular shots.

Even though it was dark at 3:30 a.m., Jenny managed to get both the blue skies overhead with the fire’s orange and yellow intensity, and the scrubby brown brush below.

In the second photo, Jenny captured the wind as it moved the fire along. She was at a safe distance, but everyone knows how quickly winds can change to move the fire in another direction. Gusts were reported up to 60 mph that day.

She sent the Idyllwild Town Crier her fire photos as a “professional courtesy” for them to use on its web site. They gave her photo credit and are in the process of negotiating a freelance contract.

Obviously, they know the value of a local photographer who is willing to bypass danger, give up sleep and take awesome action photos for them.

In addition, Jenny posts her fire photos and those of other disasters on her own web site, The web site generates commissions to do other photography work. She likes covering sports events, she says, but would rather not do weddings. Perhaps they’re not exciting or dangerous enough?

Jenny Kirchner’s fire photos can be found on her web site,, and the Idyllwild Town Crier’s web site,

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jan 10, 2012 @ 12:39


Students Try Candid Photography at Venice Beach

July 16, 2011

Venice Beach offered a plethora of treasures to the young photo students

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Yesterday, the photography class from the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program went on a field trip to Los Angeles. Like their B&W photography, it was a trip of direct contrasts.

They went from the elegant art studios at Bergamot Station to the eclectic outdoor chaos of Venice Beach.

Most of the 11-to-13-year olds in the class had never been to either place. At Bergamot, they were encouraged to visit the galleries dedicated to photography, including the Peter Fetterman Gallery and the Rose Gallery.

There, the students had to do their homework. Each had to select one photograph and critique it.

“There’s a whole laundry list of things we have to look for,” explained Alex, a student from Idyllwild Arts Academy who is also taking this summer photography class. “Basically, they want us to see what works and what doesn’t.”

“Make sure that you ask the gallery if it’s OK to take photographs,” advised Eric Metzler, their photography instructor, who also teaches at Idyllwild Arts during the school year.

Instructor Eric Metzler views Tomoko Sawada's "Reflections" at the Rose Gallery at Bergamot Station

In the Peter Fetterman Gallery, one student was critiquing a photo by Elliott Erwitt, entitled, “Man with Two Dogs.”

The black-and-white photograph featured two large bulldogs with their owner seated on the steps of a Brownstone, possibly in New York.

The artist’s twist was that the second bulldog, sitting on the man’s lap, totally obscured his image. (All you could see was his left ear). In short, it looked like Sci-Fi hybrid of a bulldog’s head with a man’s body.

“I think the artist is trying to say that men are dogs,” said the young female student.

Several other famous photos of Elliott Erwitt’s were on display in the gallery, notably couples kissing.

“They’re definitely staged,” said Jenny Kirchner, one of the van drivers on the trip, who is also an award-winning photojournalist. “That’s OK, they’re still great.”

French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, the master of photojournalism who perfected “street photography,” didn’t stage his photos. He just had a keen sense of when things would appear, his wife said in an article.

Students had the option of photographing the beach also

Likewise, Erwitt’s photos were not staged, argued Margaret, another student.

“They’re ingenius, like the one of the couple kissing in the sideview mirror,” she said. “Most photographers would photograph themselves, but he got out of the way and took one of them.”

After Bergamot, armed with their 35 mm cameras (no digitals allowed), rolled film, tripods and lenses in hand, the group of young photographers then set out to capture Venice Beach. Eric gave them ample time for their “plein air” photography experience, from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.. They would leave L.A. just before sunset.

Like Cartier-Bresson, many of the students took pictures of bodybuilders, skateboarders and basketball players. None wanted to “tip” to Spider Man and Elvis for their photos as they walked along Venice’s Boardwalk.

“Bye, Spider Man!” shouted a young girl walking hand-in-hand with her mom. “I know you’re not really Spider Man, but a man in a suit.”

“Aw, you really don’t believe that!” said Spider Man, as he sat rubbing his feet.

Other candid “photo opportunities” on the Venice Boardwalk included: a man with multitude of hats stacked on top of one another; a snake charmer on a ladder holding two green snakes; a man with a cardboard sign offering passersby the opportunity to “Kiss My Ass for $2,” medical marijuana huts; a peripeligic on a skateboard; and young girls in bikinis shopping.

With her digital camera, Jenny took pictures of skateboarders doing tricks. Then, she handed them her card and said that they’d be posted on her web site later on that evening.

“If they like the photograph, then I’ll just charge them a nominal amount for printing,” Jenny said.

In her web site, Jenny has a built-in security device that won’t allow people to steal her images.

In the backdrop, of course, was Venice Beach–with it’s miles of coastline, surfers, swimmers and seagulls.

I found a “No Swimming” area where the surf sprayed over some large rocks. It would happen only occasionally, like a humpback whale coming up and spouting air, but it was a wonderful cascade!

At day's end, a Venice Beach seagull rests for a moment on a parked car

On the way back, some of the students groaned about having to develop their film in the darkroom. Cartier-Bresson despised printing his own prints too.

“I get nervous whenever I go in there,” admitted Margaret. “So I give myself little pep talks, saying, ‘You can do this!'”

Amelia, another student agreed.

“I always manage to get chemicals on my fingertips, so they make smudges on my prints,” she confessed. “I don’t think I’ve ever come up with a ‘perfect print.'”

How did their Venice Beach photos came out?

You can actually view their photos at an exhibit at the end of next week. The details of the students’ one-day exhibit TBA.

For more information on the Black-and-White Photography class or other Summer Programs, visit or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Custom Search











Digital Art in Idyllwild

January 2, 2011

This digital art piece of Francoise's spans 5 feet wide

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“Digital art is original art,” said Francoise Frigola, an Idyllwild photographer.

She told us about a disagreement that she had with a previous gallery owner, who claimed that digital art was not original art.

“She kept insisting that it was just color copies,” Francoise said in frustration.

Digital art takes the same amount of time and effort that it would take to create a painting, she said. It’s just using a different medium.

Francoise is exploring the limits of digital art, and knows computers inside and out. In fact, she owns a computer business in Idyllwild in which she troubleshoots, fixes, and updates PCs. She even instructs others how to use PhotoShop and other software.

Even though digital art has been around for decades, there is still much confusion about it, Francoise said.


Digital art covers a range of artwork that use digital technology as an essential part of the creative process. Since the 1970s, various names have been used to describe it, such as computer art and multimedia art.

Francoise’s next exhibit, “ODA,” (short for Original Digital Art), will feature several of her recent and past digital art series, will open this Thursday, Jan. 6, at Earth n’ Fire in Idyllwild.

Several of her digital art series will be represented, including ‘Les Chats,” “Hymn to a Forest,” and “Squared Drops,” abstracts made from photographs of water droplets.

Francoise explained how she shot a series of water droplets on a glass plate, and then layered them to get the optimal effect.

“I take many overlapping photographs, and then seam them together, which is not as simple as it looks,” Francoise explained. “I only move the camera one-eighth of an inch at a time. ”

Francoise layered many photos of water droplets to create this digital image

She added that when the light changes, the seaming process of Photoshop gets lost and it doesn’t recognize adjacent images.

“I have to manually place them one-by-one,” she said.

After she prints out her digital images on canvas, she then applies impasto, which is similar to clear paint, which gives it an extra dimension and makes each piece unique.

Some of the pieces in the “ODA” show are smaller, such as “Le Chats,” or the cats, measuring 6 x 8 inches, while others are rather huge, up to five feet wide.

Luckily, Earth N’ Fire has very tall ceilings, and can hold such large images, Francoise said.

Over the years, Francoise’s work in photography, sculptures and digital art reflect her fascination of form, shape and color. Mostly self-taught, Francoise has explored many innovative techniques in darkroom processes, acrylic manipulation, and digital art. She has exhibited internationally.

Many of the photographs on her web site show her keen attention to detail from pine cone patterns to the whiskers on her cats.

Since the first time that Francoise arrived in Idyllwild, it was her dream to photograph the curved branches of the Coulter pine tree, which generally grows in the higher elevations.

Once while hiking, she came upon a dead Coulter pine tree, recently cut down due to the drought.

“It was my dream coming true,” she said. “I was able to get really close to shoot all of the details.”

From her "Hymn to a Forest" series

Everyone is invited to Francoise’s “ODA” opening this Thursday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Earth N’ Fire, located upstairs in the Fort.

To see more of Francoise’s work, visit

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Custom Search

Nash’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Photo Exhibit a Hit

July 24, 2010

Eric Metzler gives instructions to students before entering MOPA

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Baby Boomers are going to love this photography exhibit.

Imagine seeing candid photos all of your favorite rock ‘n’ roll bands with their “hair down,” and vunerable waiting backstage, and then see their sweaty, electric performances close-up like you’d never see them before. Or, catch them after the concerts, exhausted and numb “zoning” on the bus or back in their hotel rooms.

“Taking Aim: Unforgettable Rock ‘n’ Roll Photographs Selected by Graham Nash,” is the current exhibit at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park in San Diego. The show continues until Sept. 26.

“There isn’t a bad picture in the bunch,” said Eric Metzler, head of the Photography Department at Idyllwild Arts. He falls into the Baby Boomer category, but he took a group of 10 teenage photography students to see the show on Tuesday, July 20.

For many reasons, taking photographs of the exhibit was not allowed.

There were more than 100 mostly black-and-white photographs, as seen through the eyes of 40 legendary photographers including Lynn Goldsmith, Annie Leibovitz, Henry Diltz, Jim Marshall, Neal Preston, Mick Rock, and Graham Nash, among others.

“What was neat about this exhibit was there were photographers that I had never heard of before,” said Metzler, who has been teaching photography for more than two decades.

Many of the standout photos of this “Take Aim” exhibit were taken by lesser-known photographers, like Alfred Wertheimer, Joel Bernstein, Bob Gruen, Lew Allen, Anton Corbijn, and Jurgen Vollmer.

In fact, the exhibit’s “showcase” photo of Elvis eating breakfast at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, VA, was taken by Werthheimer. The photo shows a close-up of a young Elvis, hair slicked back, blazer on, eating bacon and eggs. Elvis’ eyes are downcast, more interested in the meal, than posing for a photo. He looked like an angel eating breakfast.

According to the web site, the photos in this exhibit depict Graham Nash’s view of rock ‘n’ roll music, and showcase images of live concerts and behind-the-scene shots by The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Elvis Costello, Elton John, Jimi Hendrix, and Bill Haley & the Comets, among many others.

We knew that Graham Nash, from Crosby, Stills and Nash, could sing, but who knew that he could also take pictures?

“You can get many great shots when people don’t know that you’re really taking their image,” said Graham Nash, a quote that was printed on the wall of the exhibit.

Summer students said they enjoyed the exhibit

Metzler admitted that the “Take Aim” content would appeal mostly to Baby Boomers.  Most of the rock ‘n’ roll groups were from the fifties, sixties, and seventies. But he said that he saw photos from bands from 2003 that would appeal to a younger audience.

Part of the summer students’ assignment was to examine one photograph for clarity, depth of field, composition, and other aspects of good photography, and write their opinions on it. After 30 minutes of looking them over, each student selected a different photograph.

Most of the ones that I liked had mostly to do with rock ‘n’ roll history. For example, a memorable photo of John Lenon and Yoko Ono, taken by Annie Liebowitz, depicts their relationship. It features Yoko, fully clothed, lying on the floor of their NYC apartment, hair spread out like the Venus di Milo. By contrast, John is totally nude, kissing and clinging to her like a baby possum.Yet, what most people don’t know (until this exhibit), is that this photo was taken only a few hours before John Lenon was shot to death.

MOPA wouldn't allow any photos to be taken of their current "Take Aim" exhibit

Nash and his curator did a nice job of grouping photos. For example, they placed a photo of Bob Dylan’s hands just below a photo of Johnny Lee Hooker’s hands. Johnny Lee’s hands were open, palms up, depicting many lines, or a hard road. In one of Bob Dylan’s hands was a lit cigarette, nearly down to the butt. His nails were long, especially the ring finger on his right hand. The left hand was turned over, nonexpressive.

Nash also coupled two photos of Janis Joplin, one by the well-known Jim Marshall, while the other by the lesser-known Elliott Landy. Marshall’s photo depicts a young Janis backstage, all dressed up, yet still defiant. On her lap rests a full bottle of Southern Comfort.

Landy’s photo shows a close-up of Janis Joplin onstage, singing into a microphone. Her hair is frizzed, her eyes are closed, and her right breast has fallen out of her beaded top. Although Marshall’s photo shows a vunerably, Landy’s depiction of Joplin onstage is personal and a bit vunerable too. She is so caught up in the song, that she’s unaware of her “wardrobe malfunction.”

Although there was a couple of photos of Cass Elliot from the 60s vocal group, The Mamas & the Papas, photos of John Phillips was noticeably absent. Perhaps Nash didn’t want to stir up negative feelings after John’s actor daughter, Mackenzie Phillips, recently came out with her incest book. For my part, I was glad not to see him grinning.

Of all the stage antics in these “Take Aim” photos, the ones I liked the best were of Elton John doing a handstand on the piano keyboard, while his platform shoes were flying in the air, and the one of Bill Haley (of Bill Haley & the Comets) playing guitar, while his bass player was standing on top of his bass while playing.

MOPA is located in Balboa Park, the site of many museums and attractions

“Taking Aim: Unforgettable Rock ‘n’ Roll Photographs Selected by Graham Nash,” will continue at the Museum of Photographic Arts until Sept. 26.

The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but it’s closed on Mondays. For more information, call (619) 238-7559 or visit

Metler’s class will also showcase their photos that they’ve taken over the past two weeks today from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Studio D on the Idyllwild Arts campus. For more information, call (951) 659-2171.

Custom Search