My name is Diane Stava. I'm from Dayton Ohio. I've lived in New Hampshire, Vermont and New York, but I now live in Cave Creek, Arizona with my husband and 4 cats.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN HIGH SCHOOL?
Well, like most I guess I was just trying to figure out where I fit in. I'd say I was mostly happy, sometimes moody, and a good student with some great friends. I was the nice ballet dancer who liked to hang with the metal crowd, and then the Prince crowd, and then the punk crowd, and then the indie/alternative crowd. (Now that almost sounds like The Breakfast Club 😂)
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?
I notice that you said 'do,' instead of 'did.' For me now this question relates more to a state of mind than an actual career. Whether it is through my work or my personal interactions, I just want to be someone who makes a difference, hopefully positive (!), in the lives of others.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE COMFORT FOOD?
I'm going to go with mixed berry smoothies. Either that or peppered popcorn.
WHAT IS YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL?
Definitely the cat.
WHAT TWO CELEBRITIES WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO BE YOUR PARENTS?
That is such a hard question! I am lucky to have really wonderful parents. If I was choosing celebrity parents, I think I'd choose Dave Grohl and Meryl Streep. Both are eloquent, funny and intelligent, and through their creativity they can make you feel things. Plus, they just seem like good people.
WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T LEARN FROM YOUR INSTAGRAM ALONE?
I trained to be a creative arts therapist. Although I have a master's degree in dance/movement therapy and counseling psychology and worked in that field for a few years, for the past 10 years I've worked in human resources for a couple of amazing companies that in one way or another save lives. I'm happy to be a part of that.
WHAT WAS THE LAST BOOK YOU READ?
I read psychological thrillers back-to-back-to-back. The last one I finished was called Stillhouse Lake, by Rachel Caine.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO PHOTOGRAPHY?
Really I just started playing around with photography when I got my first iPhone. I wanted to try out this new thing called Instagram, so I started taking pictures with my phone. Because I had some lovely gardens at the time (we were still in Ohio then), I had lots of willing subjects to photograph. I soon discovered that I really liked the fine details of macro photography. I worked for a bit with an olloclip on my phone, and then started using a Canon Rebel that we'd had for a few years and eventually paired that with a Tamron macro lens.
I think what keeps me interested is the desire to keep trying to find a way to pull some kind of emotion out of my pictures. Sometimes I may find that in whatever part of the image I choose to focus in on, and I know what I'm going for when I compose the shot. Other times I think I find it through editing, playing up (or down) the lighting, and working with the tones. That's totally where Mextures comes in.
IS THERE ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR THAT YOU TRY TO COMMUNICATE THROUGH YOUR WORK?
I'm not sure if there is something particular I try to communicate, but I think what I consistently attempt to accomplish is to create something that results in an unexpected impression on the viewer. I usually write a caption to help tell the story I see behind the picture. I hope that if someone pauses long enough to really take in the image, that I will either stir some kind of emotion (ideally) or tease out some little detail that wouldn't otherwise have been noticed with just a passing glance. I love playing with the emotional aspect particularly. I try to create something that can work on different levels, depending on the viewer's state of mind. I love the idea that an image can be interpreted as melancholic by one person, but represent hopefulness to another.
HOW DO YOU GENERALLY APPROACH YOUR EDITING PROCESS FROM START TO FINISH?
Sometimes I go straight to Mextures, and other times I do some general tweaking in Lightroom first, playing with the tone curve, deepening the darks and increasing or decreasing shadows, depending on the feeling I'm trying to accomplish. Either way, once I get it into Mextures I think the real fun begins. I tend to start with one of my existing saved formulas as a base, and then add, delete or flip filters around. Some of my absolute go-to overlays are Okefenokee and Soil (Vintage Gradients), Waterfront (Radiance), Ashes (Light Leaks), Portland (Light Leaks 2) and either Franklin or Tesla (Emulsion). I love that Mextures allows the overlays to be flipped in any direction, and I rely heavily on this feature to create a sense of focused "lighting" on the subject to help convey the story I have in my head about the image. I also have this weird thing about numbers, and try to make sure each overlay is used in an odd number percentage, which is sometimes ridiculously hard when I just want to bump it up or down by just 1 increment!
After I have the overlay combination, then I use the edit feature to tweak it a bit more. I may decrease the exposure even more here and I often decrease the saturation a fair amount. I usually jack up the contrast pretty high and then fade the whole thing out at least by 39% (see, an odd number!), or sometimes less depending on the mood I want to achieve.
Finally, I almost always finish it off with one of the preset adjustments. This is the cherry on top -- I can really like my formula but adding one of those at the end provides a wow factor for me. I think I most often choose K-Porta here as it somehow magically deepens and softens the tones simultaneously with a bit of fade. I also favor Misty, Punch, and Cross Process.
I'm also notorious for saving every one of my formulas - my current count is 363. I'm just such a sucker for being able to see the before and afters, that I can't resist!
CAN YOU SHARE SOME OF YOUR FORMULAS?
Nearly all of my formulas are built around focusing lighting on certain areas of my pictures, and creating depth by fading out the background in some way.
PDBHUFI (Amarillo) - This one adds a subtle warm spotlight on a subject, while deepening the tones of the background. It also turns a bright yellow into a yummy deep mango-y color and retains warmth with a combination of filters including reds like OG, Toxic and Portland and Brick.
JDQRLBU (Tiny Dancers) - Cools the temperature, darkens the background into a eggplantish color, and adds a bit of a gritty smokey effect with a combination of the Window Wash and Franklin filters, and finishes it off with a heavy handed fade.
KVRVXUV (Stardust) - This one can turn a green background into a warm brown with the help of the Ashes filter, highlights a slightly left of center subject, and adds a kind of magical sprinkled fairy dust effect with a healthy dose of the Franklin filter.
XYLQVID (In the Mood) - Creates a moody and slightly smokey faded effect by cooling the temperature with the Vintage filter and focusing the lighting in the upper third of the picture with the Barren filter. It also desaturates the color, turning a bright red into a deeper brick color.
NWBSKDV (Free Fall) - This is one that is very subtle on the lighting focus, just bringing a little hint of it in from the right side with Waterfront and a reversed Cotton Candy filter, which also helps cool the temperature. It darkens and deepens the tones, and creates a really nice depth overall. The colors are moderately desaturated, and it is also finished with a fairly heavy fade.
FOR YOU PERSONALLY, WHAT IS IT ABOUT MEXTURES THAT MAKES IT A VITAL PIECE OF YOUR EDITING PROCESS?
I am certain I would not be able to express the moods I want to convey without it. I can create something that feels warm and fuzzy, somber and introspective, or rough and gritty. Because I can flip the filters every which way, it is infinitely flexible and the possibilities are endless. I believe it really inspires my creativity and helps me give personality to an otherwise uninteresting picture.
PICK TWO OF YOUR FAVORITE PIECES THAT YOU'VE CREATED: WHAT IS IT ABOUT THEM THAT MAKES THEM STAND OUT TO YOU?
The fern picture is my current favorite, and it was an iPhone shot only edited with Mextures. Instead of trying to draw attention to a detail with a lighting focus, this one is all about pulling the eye toward the shadows. The edit gave it a sense of dimension and moodiness, which really brought it to life for me.
I chose the one with the yellow flowers because it was such a transformation. It was initially a very bright and uninteresting picture where nothing really stood out. As I played with the Mextures filters, I found that sense of diagonal movement, and was able to create a kind of ray-of-sunshine spotlight effect that actually gave the picture a point of reference.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO CREATE MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE?
I think it's the challenge of finding a story in a picture, then seeing whether I can pull that story out of it with the editing. I want to see if I can make it express what I see it expressing in my mind. I also like how sometimes the editing process will take me in a different direction, as it can reveal something that I may not have initially known was there.
IF YOU COULD STEAL CREDIT FOR ONE INSTAGRAM FEED, WHOSE WOULD IT BE?
@ranasabw - Sarah's feed is moody and melancholic, elegant and ethereal. I love everything she does, and she's a super-cool person, too!
WHO ARE THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE MOST INSPIRED YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY?
I've been working with Mextures for nearly 3 years, and have been inspired by far too many people to mention! But I will try to highlight a few.
@boco_blondie - Sarah has been a both a great friend and an inspiration. Her feed has such a cool vibe, and I love the way she pushes herself to experiment with new looks and techniques.
@geocunningham - Geoff's creativity blows me away, and he has this way of telling stories with his captions that make you see his images through a hilarious, and most likely quite warped, mind.
@_dark_k_ - I can get lost for days in the otherworldly moodiness Kaori creates
@littlesquarelives - I love the misty, foggy, eerie goodness of Patricia's feed
@essence.of.e - E is just so good at capturing fragile beauty
@nnnance - Nancy will take you on a journey from macros to vast landscapes and everything in between, and you'll love every twist and turn
@squids_eye - Lorraine captures moody nature at its finest
Take a gander at more of Diane’s work here!