But McClung is simply collecting images for her richly layered photographic collages. One collage can include 300 to 400 overlapping views of the same place, assembled digitally to bring together the many angles, corners and moments she's witnessed there.
"Sometimes I get just a straight shot that I couldn't improve on," she said. "But usually, for me to reflect on an experience, I need more than one image."
McClung's kaleidoscopic perspective can bring even more energy to the bustling urban spaces she favors.
For instance, in "Grand Central Station," one of her photos now on exhibit at Stanford Art Spaces, the floor pulses with patchwork movement, and several people in the crowd are pictured more than once in different places, as if they've traveled across the collage. The layered images of the huge American flags hanging overhead make the Stars and Stripes seem to flutter.
Surprisingly, in this iconic location, McClung was given free rein to take photos. Nervous about being asked to put her camera away, she had approached a security guard and explained that she was a professional photographer and would be taking quite a few photos of the station.
The answer came back in a New York minute: "Lady, I don't care what you do."
There's a wealth of other urban places in the current Stanford exhibit, which also includes paintings and prints by Arturo Bolanos and watercolor paintings by Claire Iris Schencke. McClung has aimed her camera at the Staten Island Ferry Station, Union Station in Washington, D.C., a Beijing escalator and the San Francisco Ferry Building, among others.
One collage, titled "Hong Kong Shopping Center Girls," is particularly lively, as the same two girls cavort over and over inside a busy world of glassy squares.
To create her collages, McClung spends lots of time wandering around in one location with her digital camera, a Nikon D200. Then, armed with Adobe Photoshop, she chooses her strongest images and does whatever cropping or altering she deems necessary.
Piecing these images into a collage onscreen is an intuitive process that McClung likens to painting. Her eye may be caught by the geometry or light patterns of a combination of photos. Overall, she says she seeks to "recreate my composite memory of a place."
McClung's work has a less urban, more peaceful side, too. She also does fine art photography, and makes collages and takes single shots of landscapes. Starting this month, she's showing landscapes of Napa and North Carolina in a group exhibit at the Center for Nursing Excellence at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.
The tranquility of this work is reflected in McClung's serene home studio in Portola Valley, a room with greenhouse-like windows and a computer with an enormous monitor. A flower garden outside displays a spectrum of pinks, and a rolled-up yoga mat rests under a window. McClung and her family moved here last year after 12 years in Palo Alto.
Being a full-time photographer is still new to McClung; she previously worked for 25 years with university libraries, shooting photos as a hobby and as gifts for friends. Then her husband gave her a new digital camera, which proved both inspiring and daunting.
"The whole computer thing was bigger than I was, so I took classes at Foothill," she said.
McClung has now studied photography for some time at Foothill and De Anza colleges, and is a candidate this fall for a Foothill degree in photography (to go with her bachelor's and master's degrees). Over the last four years, she's been transitioning into the life of a full-time photographer, exhibiting and selling photos. In 2006, her San Francisco photo collage "Waiting for the Train" took first place in the Manipulated Images category of the Palo Alto Weekly's photo contest. It was the first contest she ever entered.
The classes at Foothill seem to have made the greatest impact on McClung. She speaks with warmth of teachers Ron Herman and Kate Jordahl and is proud of the skills she's learned to market herself as an artist, such as writing press releases.
McClung has also found an encouraging community of local photographers, who include Kathryn Dunlevie of Palo Alto and Brigitte Carnochan of Portola Valley. She and her friends may go out photographing together, critique each other's work or attend each other's exhibits.
Dunlevie is a peer in that she also favors photographing a scene from many angles and then piecing the images together. But her vision is decidedly distinct. She does her piecing by hand, cutting and pasting. And as an artist with a painting background, she also often adds a painted dimension to the pieces, such as a trompe l'oeil architectural feature.
Dunlevie is encouraging of McClung and said she enjoys watching her grow.
"I think it's amazing how she makes spaces shimmer," she said. "And the rate at which she's working and producing new stuff is fantastic. I look forward to more and more."
As McClung grows as a digital photographer, she has to keep abreast of technology. Self-described as "technically challenged," she is still surprised to find herself specializing in a digital medium.
Still, she says the technology of digital photography is getting easier and easier as more people use it. She herself doesn't use a lot of equipment: She owns only two lenses and doesn't carry a tripod. In low-light situations, where moving the camera could cause blurring, she says, "I've learned not to breathe."
McClung prints her photo collages large, so that viewers will be enticed to get up close and see all the stories inside. But she understands that even with clear details of faces and buildings, "people can get disoriented by collages."
Therefore, she always gives her pieces straightforward titles so viewers will know exactly where they are, such as "West 42nd Street (NYC)."
"I find that it's just comforting," she said.
What: Photograph collages by Patricia McClung, on exhibit at Stanford Art Spaces with paintings and prints by Arturo Bolanos and watercolor paintings by Claire Iris Schencke
Where: Stanford Art Spaces, at the Center for Integrated Systems at 420 Via Palou, Stanford University
When: Weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Sept. 13
Info: For Stanford Art Spaces information, go to cis.stanford.edu/~marigros or call 650-725-3622. Patricia McClung's Web site is at www.patriciamcclung.com.
This story contains 1120 words.
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