Get Hot!

Get Hot!Get Hot! Don’t you just love it? All the possibilities…

I was in Vegas at the WPPI tradeshow earlier this week, and picked up this red hot pin at the Kiss Albums booth. Something about it just speaks to me. Physically, as in let the hot babe inside all of us show a little more often. Professionally, as in heat up your career, your work, your path – show off a little! Emotionally, as in let your red hot passion guide you and lead you. And then of course, can’t forget temperature-wise, as in embrace summer, and all that summer represents, year-round. What can I say, I love the heat!

It’s just two little words – but those two little words are saying exactly what I wanted to hear this week. So yeah, get hot! Embrace the heat…

What makes you uniquely you…

I’ve been thinking about acting lately. And I do mean acting, not theatre – if you know me, that distinction matters. And there’s a couple of reasons why it’s suddenly in my thoughts again…

A long time ago I acted – I sort of blogged about it, last year. And I loved it. Passionately! At the time I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. So I moved to LA, like all good little actresses do. And then like so many before me, I got overwhelmed with the whole earning a living thing, so I decided to move back to San Diego and study photography, so that I could learn to shoot actors headshots. It seemed like the perfect way to earn money in Los Angeles – much better than being a waitress! I fully intended to move back to LA and get back to acting, but a funny thing happened, I fell in love with photography. I especially grew to love fine art photography. So I kept waitressing, and went to school and spent long hours in the darkroom. I didn’t ever say, “I’m done with acting!” – it just sort of happened. Over time I stopped being an actor, and became a photographer.

So cut to today, and I’m planning to move back to LA in the next few months – my photography is pulling me there. It’s just the natural progression for my career and where I want to go as an artist. I’m really excited about the things I’ve got planned for later this year – it’s going to be amazing!

But somewhere in the swirl of all the excitement and planning, this weird little niggling desire has been rearing up lately. For some reason, moving to LA is still connected in my head to pursuing acting. Why? It’s been well over a decade since I was in that world? And the weird part is that I spent a decade doing musical theatre onstage, and less than a year pursuing TV and film, but theater isn’t tempting to me at all. That’s my past, and while the past was great, I’ve moved on. The niggling in my head is for TV and film. Why?

So all this was swirling in my head this morning – the weird niggling desire, the “Why?”, the “that’s not practical”, and the “why the hell not, if I want it.” Part of me is really enjoying the fact that something I’ve forgotten for so many years, has just suddenly popped up again. It’s proof to me that who we are is set fairly early. We may evolve and grow and find new things to love, but the part of me that was attracted to acting in the first place, still exists! I haven’t changed all that much.

So I let myself think a little further down the path, *if* I was to pursue it, and it occurred to me that I’m not very cast-able right now. I don’t look like the people on TV. I’m not a recognizable character. I don’t look like a smart businesswoman, or a loving mom, or a policewoman, or a librarian/teacher, or any of the other recognizable character types. I really am just me. And then it hit me! I never was any of those types. Even at 20 I was unique – I just didn’t see it at the time. I was always taught that a “good” actor loses him or herself in the role, and “good” actors can play lots of different kinds of roles, equally well. I still do believe that – for some actors – but for myself? Maybe not. There were only two instances where I was cast against type, and both times it was a difficult process for me to find myself in the role – and I did it – I was successful both times! But it took a lot of work.

If I’m honest, I was always much better when I played a version of myself. Aack! I mean what a horrible thing for any actor or even ex-actor to admit about themselves! But… I’m okay with it. And I think that *if* I was to pursue acting again, I would embrace that fact and not try to be a “good” actor who can play anything, and instead focus on my uniqueness and just play variations of myself.

Which brings me back to photography! I am sooooo okay with the fact that I can’t do everything. I revel in that fact! I’m very specialized, and I love it! I shoot hot rock stars, beautiful portraits, fine art, photojournalistic/documentary stories, and happy, shiny, scenic places. It’s a weird combination, but the way I do it is uniquely me. If you look at my work long enough, you see the continuity. Everything I shoot is distinctly me. I don’t shoot family portraits, I don’t shoot sports, I don’t shoot babies, I don’t shoot architecture, and the list goes on. Very few people can do everything well, and I’m definitely not one of them. But, what I do, I do well. I specialize and I’m unique, and I’m proud of it!

And here’s the big thought of the day! I firmly believe that true success is only possible if you embrace what makes you uniquely you.

I kind of doubt I’ll ever pursue acting again, as much as I loved it, the fact is I love photography more, and my passion is leading me… But you never know! And I have to admit that I love that a past love has entered my consciousness again. I didn’t miss acting, but I’m happy to have it back in my thoughts again. And if I’m embracing what makes me uniquely me, then maybe I’ll find a way to incorporate it into my current life. Like maybe I’ll shoot headshots for actors once I get to LA? It was the plan once upon a time, and maybe it will be again?

Australian Accents & Australian Slang

About a month ago I met an Australian at a party – I love Australians, and it seems like I tend to run into more that my fair share of them – I think I’m drawn to them? Something about their accents, and their sunshiny, laid-back nature, and, well… their accents! When I was in junior high I decided I wanted to move to Australia when I was old enough – just for a year – so I could get an accent like Olivia Newton-John. I could listen for hours, if someone from Australia is talking. Seriously!

So anyway, I met this Australian at a party, and I was telling a story about some guy and he made a comment about how maybe I just needed to spoon with this guy. And I cocked my head to one side and said, “what?” and he said, “Oh, don’t you say that here?” and I just looked at him blankly, unsure of what he meant, and so he launched into a description of spooning, as in laying in bed, side by side, and I laughed and said, “Oh, yeah! Of course! I thought you meant something else” and he laughed. And I felt like a dork, but it was all good.

I mean, the colloquialisms and slang can be so different! Hollywood and the movies are the great equalizer, and they spread the latest/coolest/dorkiest slang all over the world, but still there are differences, and I love comparing and sharing all that with my friends in other countries. It’s fun! And this guy agreed, and we were trying to come up with examples, and I swear the only one I could come up with was “to root” – and I mean really! Here, to root for someone means to hope they do well, but in Australia its slang for having sex.

Why on earth was that the only example I could come up with? And still, here it is a month later, and still I can’t come up with any others? I know there are other funny examples, and I know I’ve discussed them with friends and laughed over them, But still, the only one that stuck is “to root?”

But back to Olivia Newton-John, I got to meet her last year – briefly, backstage at MTV’s Rock the Cradle. I was shooting a documentary, and she was lovely. And yeah, I’d still love to go to Australia and spend enough time there to pick up just a hint of that accent. It’s the best accent in the world, as far as I’m concerned! And hopefully I’d pick up a bit more of the slang as well…

On Specialization and Passion

I’ve been thinking a lot about specialization lately – it’s part of the natural evolution of an artist, so it’s not that unusual to think at length about it – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still a bit scary.

There’s a new book out – which I haven’t read, but I did read the reviews! Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell outlines why some people are lucky enough to live “remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reach their potential.” And he puts forth the premise that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to reach mastery of your field. Back when I was an actor I heard it took ten years, when I started studying photography I also heard ten years. Of course, everyone thinks they’ll do it faster and better, and sometimes you think you really are ahead of that curve – but now that I’m in my 13th year as a photographer, I can look back and agree that yeah, it really did take me about 10 years. I produced some amazing images in my first year – natural talent does have something to do with it! But after ten years, it was just different. Better. I’d never thought about the number of hours – but 10,000 sounds about right. That averages out to about 20 hours a week for 10 years – and that’s hours of “practice” which means hours where you were pushing yourself in some way. If you spend 20 hours doing the same thing every week you’ll get very good at that one thing!

Last week I went to a big Studio Opening in LA, and specialization kept coming up as I talked to other photographers. To be remarkable, you really do have to narrow your focus – it’s impossible to be everything to all people. And it happens naturally as you progress in your career. Certain projects elicit great passion, and others not so much, so it’s only natural to follow your bliss – right?

But what if your passion is leading you into areas that are less than profitable? And you see your peers scooping up money in buckets all around you – and the only difference is that their passion leads them into more profitable arenas? What then? Do you follow the lead of your friends and try to feel the love for something new? Or do you forge ahead on your own path, knowing that the only real success comes from passion. Think about it – if you’re like most people all your great successes in life came in areas where you felt great passion, and that passion fueled your drive, and led directly to success. It’s the natural way…

So why then do we balk at following our own path? I don’t know. I just know that at times specialization comes easy for me – I strip away anything in my life that doesn’t excite me and move me. And other times, I agonize over the next step and find it hard to take any action at all. Right now I’m in a stage of big growth – and I’m stripping away some things that no longer work for me with great glee, and holding onto other things out of fear – and it’s not over yet! After all these years I’m still narrowing my focus as an artist, and it’s scary and amazing all at the same time.

Specialization, passion, and evolution as an artist… Overthinking it can make you crazy, but sometimes a little overthinking feels good, if it helps you get back on your OWN path. You know that path? The one where your passion leads you!

Desirous of everything at the same time…

Mad to live.

Mad to talk.

Desirous of everything at the same time.

Never saying a commonplace thing.

But burn, burn, burning…

And everyone goes “Awww!”

Sounds like a blueprint for a life worth living.

Cirrus Clouds // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Here’s the quote…

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!'” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Sex and the City

Has anyone seen Sex and the City yet?


And INXS makes an appearance! When Carrie is cleaning out her closet, she starts with a dress from the 80’s, so of course they put on music from the 80’s, and right on top of the CD player is INXS’ Kick. I wished they’d played that instead of Aerosmith’s Walk this Way, but still it was fun to see! And yeah, the one 80’s CD I had in my collection – pre-Rock Star was INXS – they’re the only band from that era that I was still listening to after all these years, and clearly I wasn’t alone in that! But post-Rock Star, and after way too many INXS concerts, it’s fun to think of Carrie as “one of my kind” – you know? If you love INXS, you’ll understand that reference!

But my favorite moment in the movie was when Miranda is agonizing over something, and Carrie tells her to stop thinking and to start feeling. That as a lawyer, she can argue both sides, so thinking is not the way to decide. Even non-lawyers can understand that. At some point she just needs to figure out how she feels and go with it. That scene just hit me hard. And true to form Miranda does think it to death – and she ends up with the pros and cons listed out on a yellow legal pad – but in one moment, she makes the decision based on a moment of intense feeling.

I’ve been agonizing over a couple of decisions lately. Who hasn’t done that? When the stakes are high – and even when they’re not – it’s hard to be flippant when it’s your life you’re making decisions about. And for most people, the path you choose is not always lit up and obvious. Sometimes you come to a fork and it can be hard to decide!

So Carrie’s speech about letting all the “thinking” go, and listening to what you’re feeling – well it spoke to me! I love when a movie does that! Movies take you away into another world, a world where you don’t live, and yet deposit you into that world and you get to live there for two hours. No other art form does that in such a full and complete way. Music can do it. Art can do it. Great writing can do it. But in a movie all those elements are combined – it’s art, music and storytelling – and it’s a full experience. And sometimes, in a really good movie, you get to take a little piece of it home with you. Maybe not Carrie’s Manolos, but could be a little bit of her advice came home with me…

Oh and maybe I can take a little bit of her music as well! Over the ending credits, the SATC theme song is layered with Fergie singing about shoes and shopping and what kind of girl she is. I liked it! I think I’m heading to iTunes to buy it, but if you want to listen to it, People Magazine has a free version on their site…,,20194808,00.html

Wild & Unexpected

Everything about today was unexpected, and yet wonderful. It started with the light.

Earlier in the week it was super hot and the light was bright and summery. Then yesterday it was a little cooler and the wind started to blow, and the light was softer. By this morning, the sky was completely gray, and it was almost chilly. Very odd. But the light wasn’t all that soft – instead it was the rare combination of dark and bright all at once – the light you get right before a thunderstorm.

I got a call about noon – about a magazine assignment – later in the day. A totally unexpected assignment.

And then the rain started to come down. And it was real rain, not a gentle shower, but big hard drops. The water swirled down the street in front of my studio, and pounded on my roof.

By mid-afternoon, the rain had stopped. The sky was still dark and ominous, and the light still had that dark/bright quality, but there were no more actual raindrops – which turned out to be a very good thing, considering much of my shoot took place outside.

I was shooting an artist – and his art – which is of course one of my favorite things to shoot – truly. For me, that’s a dream assignment, and it just fell into place today.

Oh, and the art? I was shooting one piece in particular – a massive piece about to be loaded onto a truck on it’s way to Iowa – which was yet another unexpected and fun little twist. Just last night I decided that I want to go to Keokuk Iowa next – for no reason other than they have great old houses there for super cheap. Every time I do a search on the web, I end up falling in love with a three story brick house built in 1895 in Keokuk, for $85,000. Or a Queen Anne Victorian built in 1910 and selling for $30,000 in Keokuk. It’s a little town in Southern Iowa, right on Mississippi River. I’ve been to both Saint Louis and Chicago in the last two years – and those are the two closest major cities – and I really liked both. So why not go to Keokuk? I did a little research on airports, and then on driving cross county – which actually sounded a lot more interesting. So I planned out a whole vacation to a little town in Iowa last night, and then today I go to photograph a piece of art, on it’s way to another town in Iowa, with a driver about to make that very drive. Just unexpected and twisty and fun.

The shoot went well, and shortly after I got home the rain began again, and then thunder, and bright flashes of lighting. I’ve actually never heard thunder that loud before – I think the roof of my studio emphasizes the sound of the rain – which is great! But I’m not sure why the thunder also seemed louder? Just wild wild weather today!

Nothing that I had planned happened today, but what did happen was better. Sometimes the unexpected is more fun!

I also did a little bit of shooting on the side. I spotted an adobe house with the most amazing weeds growing up to the tin roof, and with the dark sky and crazy light, it was more than I could resist…

Tin Roof on an Adobe House // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Prickly Plant // Photo: Cheryl Spelts

Weeds in Fallbrook

Weeds in Fallbrook

What You Might Have Been

It's never too late to be what you might have been.

Have you ever had a thought or feeling or dream or wish that rattled around in your head, and wouldn’t leave you alone?

One of my favorite quotes ever is pictured above, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” How can you not love that? Missed opportunities can drive you crazy if you let them, but the thing is, more opportunities open up every day. You can miss eighty in a row, but there will be another one coming along today, so hop on and ride it hard!

So I love the quote, and a couple of years ago I was in my Mom and Grandma’s gift/home decor shop, and they had just gotten in a new shipment of little signs for the garden – and one had George Elliot’s words on it. I had to have it! And when I moved here, I put it up on my deck, between my two big rattan arm chairs. It looked lovely and I was happy to have a place for it. End of story! Or not.

I started to hear this rattling in the walls – especially at night – and usually in the bathroom. Was it the pipes? It’s an old house, could be. Was it an animal? I’ve had a couple of raccoons way up on my second story deck and a bird’s nest on my light fixture – so that could be it too. Could it be a ghost? I kind of liked that possibility! I finally figured out it was the wind causing the sign to rattle against the house. I am on the second story in the tallest building downtown, so I get better breezes here – but also stronger wind. So I took the sign down, a little regretfully, and everything was quiet.

But you know what? I didn’t like the quiet. I realized that I liked the rattle – so the sign went back up. It’s an aural reminder to grab those slippery opportunities. It’s so easy to just exist and live day to day, and rarely move out of your comfort zone – but if you have a dream, a vision of what you’d like be, and do, and see, and accomplish, then you have to grab those opportunities. Who wants to think about what might have been? Bottom line, it’s never too late. So I’m embracing the rattle in my walls – and in my head!