There is a chance that when you’ve been out enjoying one of the state’s many natural wonders, you’ve passed by Cindy Skeie as she was taking pictures and never even saw her. That’s because when Cindy is photographing Iowa’s wild side, she quite literally has to get down and dirty in order to capture the magnificence of what can best be described as a small world.
I’m telling you, it’s a whole other word in there. I enjoy being outside. I grew up with four older brothers. Our house had woods and creek in the back, and we pretty much lived down there our whole childhood and you knew every inch of those woods. I always say if I don’t have some dirt under my fingernails, then I’m not doing something right.
In a world that seems to embrace the concept that bigger is better, Cindy uses macrophotography to make a miniature universe larger than life. Her images put you face to face with the things in nature that are usually stepped over, giving her pictures with that “Oh, wow!” appeal.
One of the best compliments I get is when somebody tells me, wow, you know, I never looked at it that way before. Who knew fungus could be fun! To me fungus, whatever, growing on a dead tree, there’s an entire world in there. It amazes me. If you’re walking by and you saw that snail on the leaf, it would be a slimy little snail sitting on a leaf. You can get up close and wow, it blows my mind.
When Skeie grabs her camera and heads out on a shoot, she rarely has a specific subject in mind and she never knows what it is that she will actually find.
I’m working on a shot for my water drops, and then I eyeball all this fungus. So, all right. Focus.
Even in something as spectacular as a large patch of bluebells, there is always a distraction that catches here eye and pulls her in another direction.
When I was doing the bluebells, I started with the flower itself. Then I started with the buds, because to me, those are more interesting than the open flower. Then I started backing up a little bit. Then I noticed the water drops. Then my eyes really went towards the lichen that was on the dead limb laying in the grass. Then I found a wildflower. It just goes on and on and on.
Cindy says she has been taking pictures for quite some time and started exploring macrophotography with her point-and-shoot camera before she got really serious about four years ago. The first subjects she focused her attention on were things she found in her own backyard. Her 2012 calendar, Beauty in the Backyard, is a collection of things she found there.
I started gardening avidly. I originally started taking photos of all the different colors because I love color. I just kept getting drawn to closer and closer shots. I’ll look at something in my backyard still and just be amazed at what I see through the camera lens.
One of the things Skeie is always looking for is drops of water or sap. For her it’s not so much the drops themselves that she fins intriguing as what’s behind them. She’s even managed to capture a self-portrait using a drop of sap.
So I’m standing out there for all the world to see with a tripod and a camera and me on the other side of this trying to take a shot. So, yeah, sap and water drops.
Cindy edits the images she’s captured on her laptop and doesn’t do much more than crop and size them. She tries to avoid any manipulation of the colors in her pictures.
I’ll compose a general shot, but it’s not until I’m on my computer, looking at it and seeing how sharp the image is and where the focal point is, that I decide where I want to do my cropping. I try not to mess with color too much. Typically I don’t have to. Sometimes I actually have to desaturate some of my colors because they are too vivid. You don’t have to muck with nature when it’s as beautiful as it is.
Skeie enjoys all aspects of photography, from the taking of the picture to preparing it for printing. While she enjoys seeing how people react to her images, she finds exhibiting her work difficult.
It’s kind of like you’re exposing yourself, because I don’t think I realized until I started putting myself out there that you’re sharing a part of yourself with everybody else. But the more I share it with people, the more fascinated they are. I like when I hear people saying, oh, you know, I ought to get a macrolens, that looks like fun.
Cindy always seems surprised when she looks in the viewfinder of her camera to see what she’s just shot. When she’s out with her camera, it’s as if she’s on an adventure where there’s plenty of treasure to be found.
There’s just so much to see, and people walk by this stuff every day. A lot of people don’t realize you walk out your back door – you don’t have to be in a park. You can walk down a greenbelt trail. Stop on the side of the trail. You get down there and look and it’s just amazing.