kerry m halasz

my world in pictures and words

cuba

Given President Obama’s historic trip to Cuba, I thought it was due time for me to post some images I took on my own historic trip to the island nation last year. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long!

My sweet husband, who tries not to tease me too much about my mid century American car obsession, surprised me with an anniversary trip to Havana and beyond. He figured there was no better place for me to see my dream cars than Cuba! I tell you, it was the surprise of my life!

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The cars were truly beyond my wildest dreams. It was as if we’d stepped through a door and suddenly it was 1956. The way the Cubans have kept these autos running for so many years with so few resources is simply amazing and an achievement few others could imagine. Yes, my compact flash card was filled with images of colorful Chevy Bel Airs, ancient Cadillacs, and fabulous Ford Fairlanes. But more than that, and unexpectedly, my head was filled with images of a culture struggling with decades of neglect.

Because this adventure was truly a surprise, I did not prepare for it in my usual manner of carefully reading guidebooks, planning day trips in advance and learning a bit of history pre departure. No, I arrived completely unprepared for the shock of it all. I recovered quickly and took on the challenge of seeing and doing as much as humanly possible over 5 days.

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Unencumbered by a tour group, we walked and taxied our way all over old Havana, Havana Vieja. We met friendly Cubans everywhere we wandered. I was overwhelmed by the hauntingly beautiful, crumbling architecture surrounding us. Havana must have been stunning it its heyday. The buildings are an eclectic mix of Spanish/Moorish, Italian Baroque, Art Deco, Communist and more. Many are in severe states of disrepair, others are in fairly good shape and still others are being refurbished.

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I was struck by the reality that many of the buildings that were literally crumbling to the ground were also homes to people. We’d see an in tact balcony right next to one that had tumbled down years before and it was obvious that both apartments were occupied. Yet every Cuban we encountered smiled or shook our hands or offered help with directions. We heard live music pouring out of many doorways.

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One night (OK two nights), we ventured to one of Ernest Hemingway’s haunts; La Bodeguita del Medio, where the mojito was created. The bar was packed with friendly tourists from other countries. Graffiti covered every available wall and the hard working bartenders used an assembly line style set up to create the very delicious mojitos. I could just imagine Hemingway holding court at the bar!

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As each day turned into the next, I embarrassingly realized how little I really knew, or was curious, about Cuba and its revolution. I’d heard about it all of my life from the time I was a little girl and never thought beyond what the news and textbooks and relatives here in the US had taught me. I’m not going to use my blog as a political tool, but I’ll just say there are many sides to every story and the Cuban story is very complicated and nuanced. I gained more knowledge on this trip than I could have imagined. To see what human beings endure because of the actions of their leaders and of outside forces is very humbling and frustrating. To see how humans endure is very inspiring. I have no idea how the change in relations with the US will play out in Cuba nor how it will affect everyday lives there. I do hope that the Cuban people will somehow benefit without losing their beautiful spirit.

As always, I’ll let my photos speak for me.

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~Kerry

 

 

 

ancient

As I wander around my gorgeous and historic home state of New Mexico, I am constantly reminded of how many eons these lands have been home to native peoples. The light falling on this kiva ladder at Bandelier National Monument in Northern New Mexico fills me with wonder. I can imagine generations gathering in this sacred space, the same light falling gently on them as it did on me.
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united arab emerites & oman

gallery tour. getting closer!

The gallery tour I’m participating in is getting closer! I’m hard at work creating more of my wood blocks and hoping people will love them. My husband is building a sweet display for me to hang them on. I can’t wait to see the finished product. Keep your fingers crossed for lots of visitors to my studio. I’ll be serving goodies!
Here are a few more of the woodblocks for your viewing pleasure. Thanks for looking!

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3 small nest wood blocks

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thrilled.

It’s been a great week! I’ve been hard at work transitioning from portrait and wedding photography to fine art photography. And I mean hard at work! Hours and hours and lots of risk taking and navigating a steep learning curve to get a handle on using social media for promotion.
Earlier this week one of my images was included in a blog post by the fabulous Emily Henderson. If you’re unfamiliar with her, she’s, in her words,  “AN HGTV HOST/ DESIGNER, STYLIST, BLOGGER AND GENERAL PARTY ANIMAL. PERFECTION IS BORING, LET’S GET WEIRD.” Her blog is full of great design ideas and inspiration. Here’s the post my work was chosen for

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I can’t tell you how excited I was by this!

In addition, I was chosen as a featured artist on a fairly new website, Framebridge.com.
This is a pretty cool website. Basically, you can have artwork for your home framed online instead of taking it to a frame shop. You can choose from tons of frames, preview what your piece will look like both in the frame and on your wall, then send the physical artwork or a digital file and they’ll frame it and ship it back to you. Easy!

I’ve had a smile on my face all week! Take a look at my featured photos…

Thanks for looking! ~Kerry

almost one year.

We are coming up on our one year Santa Fe-versary! I’ve taken thousands (yes, thousands!) of photos since moving back to my beloved and wondrous state of New Mexico. Thought I’d share a few of my favorite pics today. Enjoy!

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Chimayo after a rainstorm.

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Plaza Blanca and my sweet husband and our dog, Gus.

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An iconic door on Canyon Road in Santa Fe.

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Glorious Aspen trees in their fall glitter.

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At Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu.

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White Sands National Monument


Early morning rangers at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

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The New Mexico sky.

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The rail trail after a snowfall.

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Another lovely Santa Fe door.

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Santuario de Chimayo.

mad men + walking dead.

After 7 glorious years of re-living the chaos, clothing, oddly colored appliances, iconic cocktails, complicated relationships and the cars, oh the cars of the 1960’s, those fabulous Mad Men stories are about to come to an end. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happens to Don Draper and his cohorts. Will he live? Will his repeating fall from the heights of his NYC office finally lead to the hard, cold ground? I don’t know. But! I’ve seen the future of a couple of his fabulous cars and they look like something out of the Walking Dead. Take a look…

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OK. These are from my favorite abandoned car nirvana, Old Car City in Georgia. But if you look closely, you’ll see Don and Betty’s karma floating around…

let’s take some great pictures of our pets!

I love taking pictures of my pets. Do you? Our pets are members of the family and while they may not enjoy having a camera pointed at them, it sure is as important to capture their personalities as it is to snap images of your human family. Admittedly, it can be tricky to get a great photo of your active dog or shy cat. But, since most of us have a camera at the ready in a pocket or bag, it’s pretty easy to get a good photo of those silly, loving little buddies.

Those cuties are Gus and Max. They’re both full of personality and love to go hiking with us. I’m lucky to have such great photo backdrops here in New Mexico: blue sky, large rock formations to scramble up and great light. Locations like that are wonderful but really, all you need is a space without too much clutter and with good light. Look for a fence or wall or even a light painted wall or a window inside to start. Next, pay attention to the quality and direction of light. In our previous home, our dining room had beautiful light coming in through east facing windows. That made it a perfect spot to shoot in the morning. As a plus, the carpet was light colored and so it acted as a sort of reflector. Glance around your abode and see if you can find some pleasing light, inside or out, and pay attention to the time of day when it looks best; not too dark and not too bright! The above picture was taken with my iPhone 6 using the native camera. I didn’t do anything to it after capture. I think it’s an amazing camera!

That’s our cat, Scout. He’s pretty shy but loves to sit by windows to look at birds and to bask in the warmth. Notice where your pets like to hang out. Part of photography is telling a story and it’s always nice to look back and remember where your dog loved to sleep or play with his toys or what crazy locations the cat got herself into! Then watch for your pet to take a nap or rest there. If you want to catch them napping, try quietly sneaking close and snapping a few frames before they wake up. Some of my favorite pictures of our pets have been taken while they are snuggled up on our bed, or while they are playing with their toys or when our cat has decided that a wooden bowl is the best place to curl up. Most of the time, I’ll get down to their level for a better perspective. It usually makes for a better photo.

Once you’ve scouted out some good locations to shoot around the house, start thinking about how to get the best possible picture! As you look through the viewfinder of your camera, or at the screen on your phone, get in the habit of seeing it as a rectangle divided horizontally and vertically into thirds. Sort of like a tic-tac-toe board. Where the lines meet is where you want to place the most interesting part of your picture. Or, an easy way to think about it…in most cases avoid putting your dog’s face smack dab in the middle of the frame.

Notice in the above pictures of Cody, Gus and Max how their eyes aren’t centered and are also in the top third of the frame. And, I’ve also gotten in pretty close to fill the frame with their sweet little faces. Once you’ve become used to taking pictures with the dividing grid of thirds in mind, getting good shots of anything becomes much easier! Lots of cameras now have those grids built in to the viewfinder or screen. It’s a great tool to have and use. As you can see in two of those pics, I was standing above the doggies. Sometimes I like that perspective, too.

Have you ever tried to get a perfect picture of your pet and he just won’t cooperate? I know I have! If your dog insists on looking the other way or running in the opposite direction do what I do. Bring out a treat! Most dogs will do anything for food. Right? It’s ridiculous how closely they’ll pay attention if you lure them with their favorite treat. It’s best if you have another person help you with this, but if not, don’t despair! Here’s what I do: if my husband is around, I’ll have him stand just behind my shoulder and after having asked Gus to sit and stay, Andy will hold out the treat for him. I have to act fast with the shutter but I always succeed in getting a shot of Gus looking longingly at Andy, er, the treat, off camera. If I’m on my own, I’ll hold my camera in one hand and the treats in another. That requires a bit more coordination, but with practice it can be done. Another trick I’ll use is to make all kinds of crazy noises to get them to look my way. I’ll meow, squawk, trill, do whatever it takes to get their attention! Don’t be embarrassed, it’s totally worth it!


OK. We see the treat now let us have it!

And now for the technicalities. Don’t worry, I won’t go on too much about them! As I said, I have a fabulous iPhone 6. I typically use the on board camera but also have some apps that I love to use to get the perfect look. My current favorite is VSCOcam. I like the ease of use and the photo treatment options. Sometimes I’ll use the adjustments in Instagram to get the look I want. I also like Snapseed and PicTapGo. They are all available in the iTunes App Store.

If you’re using an iPhone, did you know that you can change the exposure and focus right on the screen? You can! If you’re looking at your cat on the screen and she looks so dark that you can barely see her, touch your finger on her face and see if the exposure changes. Touch around until things look good. Amazing! And of course, hold your phone as steady as possible, especially in lower light.

My other camera is a Canon DSLR. I have several lenses for it, but mostly use a 24-70 set at a large aperture so the background where my pets are gets blurred out a bit. The larger aperture lets in more light, too. I’ll often set mine at 2.8, but if your lens doesn’t go down that far, just set it to whatever your smallest number is and go from there. And remember to focus on your pet’s eyes! I like to shoot in RAW format, but if you aren’t into putting your pictures through Photoshop, just shoot in jpg. In another post, I’ll go into more about using a DSLR to get great shots of your buddies.

Go out and try my hints and let me know how it goes! I’m happy to help you get some memorable images :)

on its way out.

Winter, that is.
Walking along Canyon Road in Santa Fe after a recent snow, I happened to look up and saw these guys flitting around above the bare trees. The snowy scenes in town were stunning, but this turned out to be one of my favorite shots. I feel cold just looking at it!