Eclectic, enjoyable, and lively are three words we would use to describe the work of Sarah (@boco_blondie). It’s clear from the first glance at her feed that she loves the process of creating and that she finds great joy in the relationships and connections she’s made via Instagram. Sarah has been an active participant in the Mextures community for some time and is always quick to encourage those around her. In addition to highlighting her lovely creations, we’ve pieced together a delightful conversation we recently had with Sarah for you all to enjoy!
Hey ya'll! Super stoked to be here and to provide you with a little bit about myself. Originally born and raised in New England - The Berkshires, Boston, Newport, R.I. and Cape Cod provided a home base and summer getaways up until I graduated. I moved to Boulder, Colorado (BoCo) - hence the username, about 20 yrs ago. My family and I have one 100lb dog who thinks he's a lapdog (No. I'm not joking.) and a kitten named Durango who doesn't meow. Oh, and two water frogs! Our friends tell us we should have a reality show because it's always chaotic.
We have over 300 days of sunshine a year in Boulder so we spend most of our time outdoors. Between all of us someone is either on a trailhead, soccer field, mountain peak or lakeside. Road trips - last minute ones - are my favorite.
Originally going to school for Fashion Design in Boston as I've always had a passion for drawing and the arts, I had to change paths due to medical reasons in my 20's. I somehow found myself working as a stock broker and then realized it wasn't for me so I started my own company a couple of years ago where I'm the CEO of a Financial/Administrative firm which gives me the flexibility to work in the mornings and play in the afternoons.
I travel between Boston and Naples, FL as that's where I call home as well now. So when I feel a bit land locked I'm famous for buying a ticket and leaving the next day. Top places to see in my lifetime are South Africa, New Zealand, Iceland, Paris and Italy.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET IN TO PHOTOGRAPHY?
I joined Instagram in the prehistoric ages as I always liked to snap random shots. The typical food, selfies (as I was a lot younger and with less wrinkles then) it was just for fun. Then one day I came across @j_swaine and fell in love with her nature shots. It helped me to believe that I could try it. When I looked at her post I saw the tag #mextures and clicked on it and my eyes were in a trance. I remember quickly opening the App Store praying I would find this so called 'Mextures' and bam, there it was. So Mextures definitely kickstarted my passion for photography.
I was also at a point in life about 1.5 yrs ago where I needed a creative outlet. I was feeling suffocated with the daily grind and hurdles of career, motherhood and marriage that I used photography and editing as a release. It became my own form of therapy without the $40 co-pay. I Remember @andyskeptic saying he took 10 photos a day just to stay in tune and practice and I've tried to do that as well. I'm constantly looking for a shot that speaks to me. I can never just drive down the road without 'looking'.
Having my kids enjoy shooting is a bonus as my daughter and I are famous for hitting the road at 4:30 am with coffee in hand and just driving until we see those first rays. My photos are more about the memory of the day. They are personal treasures, thus why I often tag #myartmyrules.
WHEN YOU ARE OUT SHOOTING, HOW MUCH OF IT IS INSTINCTUAL VERSUS PLANNED?
Rarely do I plan. That's why the camera bag practically lives in my car. It's all a matter of how much time I have at hand on a given day and which direction I want to drive. It may be vast mountain peaks up the switchbacks or a simple stroll on a trail trying to catch the sun's rays peeking through fields. I just never know until I see and feel it. Many times I leave only to delete the majority of what I've taken as the vibe isn’t there but I take a moment to see how I could have caught a particular shot better for next time. I'm an emotional photographer if that makes sense. My good friend @monalisamonkey nailed it when she said "the parting shot is usually the best" and she's right. Something usually catches my eye on the way back to the car and in my head I hear “yes, that's it" and it's usually what you see posted while the other shots reside in a folder for future use.
When doing product shoots, this is planned from a location to a vision I want to recreate from my thoughts. They are a bit more intense for me as I like to just wander, feel, and then shoot. The pressure of deadlines and wanting to please the companies is intimidating as I'm not a professional but I’m humbled that I have been sought out by many to do so. I used to just take pictures of a pretty landscape with no focal point, but now I try to really find that minimal feel. It’s not always achieved but I believe I'm slowly finding my own style of what works and pleases me.
WHAT IS IT THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR WORK?
This is the mother of all questions as I honestly have never thought about it. I never think about the receiving end and people’s perception as I always edit to suit my mood or recreate the feeling I had when I took the shot. I like to try new approaches, to push myself, and that's why my feed is not a consistent vibe of moody or pastels or anything for that matter. But if fellow artists can feel a positive emotion on some level then I'm thrilled. It's very humbling to read such detailed comments people leave because I know they really connected with what I created. If they feel like they are right there in the image it's a wonderful kinship to have made with someone.
WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND TO BE YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN DEVELOPING YOUR STYLE AND MOOD?
Staying creative within my surroundings. I live in such a beautiful part of the country that it's easy to shoot mountain peaks, fields of flowers, and rolling rivers, but to find new perspectives of them is a challenge. Nowadays I tend to look more with my eyes and less through the lens, asking myself, “what would I want to remember if I never saw this again”.
Moving my body is something I'm trying to do more of as well. Laying on my back, crouching down or even flat on my stomach can turn an otherwise ordinary photo into a countless range of creative possibilities. Preferably when no other people are around but it doesn't stop me from doing so and I can't help but giggle when I hear people say 'what is she doing'. It's a good thing I don't embarrass easily!
WHAT, IN YOUR OPINION, MAKES A PIECE MEMORABLE?
It's a personal preference for sure. For me it could trigger a fond memory that the photographer captured which is eerily similar to how my mind remembers it - the coloring could just melt my heart or perhaps there's a mystique about it so that every time I go back to see it, it evokes new emotions. Out of the millions of photos on Instagram there is one that that I still go look at almost weekly. It was created by @emmasancez and I find myself just mesmerized by it. From the tones to the image itself to the fact it's a flawless double exposure, I can't seem to ever get it out of my mind. When an image captures all of those feelings it's unforgettable.
WHAT DOES YOUR EDITING PROCESS GENERALLY LOOK LIKE?
Before I even start, I curl up in my favorite place in the house - usually in the evenings when all is quiet and I can focus without interruptions. I prefer to have total silence. I've tried editing with music on but I find it distracting. Spare me the blonde jokes! Once I know what piece I want to work on I start with Snapseed for general tweeks such as cropping, erasing, tone adjustments, etc and then move into Unionapp when needed. I've been playing with Lightroom for a few months but it's still a major learning curve for me. I'm trying to incorporate it into each piece before the grand finale of Mextures. I use Mextures on just about everything I create. Sometimes just a single Radiance texture is all I feel, all the way up to a multi layer formula, typically all from the Anomaly pack which I'm obsessed with. I'm slowly trying other adjustments as I'm prone to the Cross Process and Diana film presets.
The beauty of Mextures is that I head into it envisioning one thing but can finish with something completely different. I usually end up with five different formulas for one edit, all slightly different, which has led to over 600 formulas that I recently deleted. I was becoming dependent on them as a base and by deleting them it has pushed me to try new techniques and styles.
I'm always in awe of people that can edit multiple photos a day or even one every day for that matter as it takes me many nights just to be satisfied with what you see. Even then, I'm famous for deleting it after it has been posted. I'm my own worst critic. Whatever I've worked on the night before I look at again in the morning knowing there’s a 50/50 chance that I'll delete it and start all over again that night.
WOULD YOU BE UP FOR SHARING A FEW OF YOUR FORMULAS WITH EVERYONE?
I did save a few formulas from my recent purge and have added a couple of new formulas. Some of my favorites are:
Deep In The Thick - GAFVCTQ - With warm tones deep with greens, this is one of my new favorites. It creates such a dark and moody atmosphere, which is not my normal editing style, but it can be easily manipulated to a softer mood by playing with the blend options.
Shine Bright - EIWTFSG - Soft and warm grays created mostly with Atmospheric textures. It exudes a warm and soft feeling. It provides a great base to enhance more coloring when desired.
The Cape - CXAPKKL - When craving texture this was one I couldn't part with due to the golden and green hues from Soil in the Vintage Gradients. The 9OS Kid Overlay from the Grunge pack can create a completely different feel when flipped as well.
Nature's Tattoo - JAELBUL - A black and white formula comprised of many overlays from Anomaly. Since I'm more drawn to soft pastels I don't use this as much, but when trying to empathize shadows for a black and white it's easy to work with.
Helping Hand - EZAFTEG - A versatile 14-heavy-layer formula of warm purples and blues with a warm and soft fade that can easily provide a golden enriched vibe by changing the temperature in Adjustments.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO CREATE MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE?
The thrill of grabbing my camera, jumping in the car and just driving or walking until I sense that I have arrived. Wandering with eyes wide open and what you feel in that moment versus even seeing the shot through the lens. Many times I've been known to just yell “YES” once I've captured what I felt because then that leads to knowing how I want to use Mextures to change or enhance the mood. Many times I think about how I will edit the photo on the way home and once I am able to work on it, it is the joy of bringing it to life for others to see. I'm inspired by so many different genres of photographers that it pushes me to try new styles of shooting/editing as I have so much to learn. I love experimenting outside my own personal box, so again, that's why I create such a wide variety of posts. Creativity is endless so just knowing that gets me excited.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE PIECE TO CREATE SO FAR?
My favorite piece thus far would have to be an edit I did of Jarryd Watson's (@___rod_) shots for a round of the @mexturescollective earlier this year. As much as I love shooting, I love collaborating with others. I have to have a connection to the photo in some form so it can be challenging at times, but in this particular case when I saw the portrait it screamed to me. From the hat (those that know me know I live in hats) to the profile reminding me of my daughter, I was instantly drawn to it. After adding in the background shot it brought back memories to a day last Fall when my daughter and I were shooting in a field near our house and she was wearing her own version of a similar hat. When the photo speaks such volumes to me the editing process comes organically and rather quickly which is usually not the case. On occasion, when I find myself looking back at prior posts, this one still (and always) makes me smile.
HOW HAS SOCIAL MEDIA PLAYED A ROLE IN YOUR WORK?
First and foremost, social media, primarily @instagram, has provided inspiration beyond any expectation I had when I first joined. Seeing all of the amazing talent on Instagram inspired me to create four completely different Feature Hubs this past year - @shotzdelight, @mexturezdelight, @flowerzdelight, and @cloudzdelight. The Mextures community is one of the most passionate groups of people. The wide variety of editing techniques is mind blowing to me. From soft and subtle to dark, sexy and mysterious, I'm drawn in and captivated. From there, engagement is easily made.
I've been fortunate enough to meet many "igers" here locally and from across the country. From learning and sharing photography techniques and editing chats to creating with some a friendship that exceeds what social media introduced. I often say if I won the lottery tomorrow I would travel the world with preset destinations as I have made friends in so many cities and countries from social media that it would take at least a year to visit each and raise a toast.
If platforms like Instagram disappeared tomorrow, would I stop doing what I love? Absolutely not. I have endless folders of photos, edited and unedited, that are there for me, to be printed for loved ones as gifts or to be sold in the local boutique. What you see on Instagram is just a sampling. Social media introduced me to the world of photography and editing, but it won't ever stop me from doing what I now call my passion.
WHO ARE SOME OF THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE INSPIRED YOUR WORK AND PROCESS?
The amount of inspiration is endless for me. Since I have a love for such a wide variety of photography and edits I'll break it down like this: Photographers that inspire me are @fridakitten, @ranasabw, @andyskeptik, and @leinsview for their amazing macro shots. I continuously am amazed by their work. #goalsforblondie I often tell them. Landscape idols are @the.metropolis/@jamiebettsphotos, @tim_hf, @jqnv, and @littlesquarelives. My jaw drops when I see their work. Folk vibes by @matt.ferr, @r4s, @cfunk44, and my girl, @maime_. Dreamy work that's unique and always crispy clean. Urban shooter boys @opoline and @pimpmycamel. Those boys make me want to go shoot rooftops and 'bando but let's face it I'm too scared and probably too old! And the two that make me stop scrolling in a heartbeat are @rusticbones and @thelittlethings_love. These women have endless amounts of creativity and such an eye for capturing emotion. I can only hope to someday capture a bit of that in my work.
As for editing I would never have learned without the guidance of my friend D (@lizardneedsfood_badly) and Francesco (@eleathar). When in doubt I'm asking for feedback or instructions on how to improve a piece. I owe so much to them as they have pushed me since the beginning. So, thank you my friends. Double exposure edits by the uber talented @emmasancez and @guardiansoftrance. What's there not to love? The dirty, gritty and dark edits from @micklemuckle, @monalisamonkey, @bjorg_elise, @kris.mattison, and @pic_nic_time put you in a dream state of mind and for cotton candy color @frvnkyvng and @abdul_ruhman. These guys leave you hungry for more.
Lastly, these artists have supported me since day one of meeting. I'm proud to call them family in addition to some previously listed above - @marbleinthedust, @atlas.urbanx3, @luke_jclark, @girl_in_the_fern, @hptuk, @loggerhead55, @rheamatter, @joannakatd, and @explaur_en. You are each so talented in your own styles and you make me smile each and every day.
Have a look at more of Sarah’s phenomenal work here!