Posts Tagged photography
Part of practicing photography and learning how to do it better is learning what interests me visually and trying to represent that in a way so it translates to others who may view my image. It’s hard and the practice feels abstract to my very logical, verbal mind. It’s not like writing a thesis, that’s for sure. So today’s images I’ve grouped into three distinct themes, two of which I’m starting to see in my work, and the last is something I’d like to get better at: shades, clouds/skies, and capturing people/stories.
I was out in Harvard Square over the weekend dancing with friends. I figured it would be an excellent time to bring my camera.
We were dancing in the mid-day light, so the shadows were incredibly striking. I decided that rather than capturing the people who were dancing, I’d try to capture the movement in their shadows. These are the two best examples I managed. One is a little fuzzy, but I really like this as a way to capture people dancing. I will have to experiment more in the future.
I like clouds and sky as a subject. But making them interesting and grounded (ironic phrasing for sky…) is difficult. Just pointing my camera upwards and taking a picture, even if the cloud formations are interesting, often loses the drama I find so fascinating in the sky. I’m learning, through all that book readin’, that it’s part of the challenge of taking a three-dimensional subject and turning it into a two-dimensional representation. The trick, I’m discovering, is finding a way to build in dimensionality by putting objects in the foreground and create that enhance the drama.
This first image I used a flag pole reaching up to provide a false-sense of scale. The blue of the sky and the gold edge around the dramatic cloud formation appeals to me. The balance between the puffyness of the cloud and the stark linearity of the pole creates a weird tension that is also appealing.
The other two images are from the same vantage point. The first taking in more elements to “ground” the colors of the sky, the second eliminates the building and focuses on the silhouette of the basket of flowers. The clouds in the second get at little fuzzy, but I kind of like it because it makes me focus on the colors of the sky rather than the drama of the clouds.
Finally, people. I’ve written a bit previously about my discomfort with taking pictures of people. It’s invasive and I feel like a voyeur. I’m also hesitant about the ethics of taking photographs of people and sharing them online. But I’ve also begun to notice how bland images can be without that personal element. And I want to get better in general, so I’m trying. This dancing endeavor was a perfect opportunity to practice because I know the people and I also dance which I figured would help me anticipate action to get a well-framed shot. I had some success. The following four images I consider pretty good. They capture motion or a story or the excitement of the music. A few even have some pretty good framing. I could find fault with all of them, but I’d rather let them tell the story of the experience and hope they transmit the emotion of the afternoon.
The last image I’ll share, although I admit I’m hesitant to do so. The lack of permission from the two subjects, neither of which could give me permission for two different reasons, makes me nervous about the ethics. But I really like the reasons behind why I composed this shot, so I’ll make it public anyway and include the story behind it.
At the music festival, sitting and listening to one of the bands perform, I noticed this woman. She was clearly enjoying the music, dancing and bouncing around in her chair, and expressing her joy at the experience. She was also appeared to be non-verbal, but her smile was just so incredible that I was drawn into her happiness and wanted to capture her enjoyment. I was having trouble catching her smile just right. Then this infant got rolled up to listen to the music as well. But instead of focusing on the music, she began to focus on the woman. Her intense expression of consideration and uncertainty at this woman whose appearance is culturally non-standard was such a juxtaposition. It made an interesting story within an image. After a few tries, I got this great shot of the infant looking at the woman who was looking to her caregiver with such a smile. I’m actually quite proud of it. (The only blech part of the image is the stupid Mountain Dew bottle)
Moving is hard work. Which means I’ve neglected this project. But I’ve got a few days in the queue that I’ll try to get shared.
In my non-picture taking time I’ve been doing a lot of reading on photography and composition. I took a break one morning to wash dishes (glamorous!) and the light happened to create some interesting colors on the wall through my cider bottles. My attempts to capture the interestingly-colored shadows were largely unsuccessful, but this particular one was at least moderately interesting. The line of bottles with their shadows and the shadow of the soap bottle is pleasantly aligned. Otherwise, it’s a little bit meh.
I only took two pictures today. So rather than select a best, I took one of them and played with the color levels in Gimp. I’m not overly interested in manipulating images in photoshop – yet. But it’s fun to see what the technology can do.
This first image is the “original.” It’s a tif copy of the raw file. The sunlight was just peeking through the clouds, making the blues intense and the golds vibrant. I decided to play with that effect.
The second image I focused on darkening everything except the stream of light. The third, I darkened the blues and lightened the lights. And the fourth image I tried to bring back the color in the foreground. Because I didn’t use any layers to separate changes in the levels to get some combination of the above, the last image is less striking. I still have the raw file. So perhaps some day when I’m feeling ambitious I can do that.
I took a very early morning walk today to the grocery store. On my way there I met an ambitious squirrel who was trying very hard to consume a piece of pizza that nearly matched him in size. It was the perfect subject, so I took a few shots of the happy creature. This one turned out the best. I’m still having problems with focus. This isn’t as clean as I’d like it to be. But I think I captured the memory behind the encounter.
With this guy to inspire me, and the sun finally breaking out and shining in my guinea pig’s cage, I took the time to play with shutter speed. Again, the white balance was set improperly and I didn’t realize it until later, but I actually like the warmth it gives Fred’s coat. These three are the best, taken from two different angles but mostly capturing his “I’m content and only interested in you if you have food” posture. The sun was hitting his white spot quite nicely. But sadly it wasn’t until I got the images to my computer that I realized just how much of his cute little face was shadowed. Relying on the viewfinder and lcd screen just isn’t enough. Oh well, they are still some of the best pictures I’ve taken of any of my pigs.
We’ve had a bit of rain the past 24 hours which added a new element to consider when composing my photographs today. Namely, water droplets on the spring flowers. I spent a great deal of today playing with trying to capture water and color with varying degrees of success.
Rather than leaving the best for last, today I want to highlight the one that turned out most successfully. This one was part of a set where I was playing with manual focus. I had several photographs that looked very similar, particularly when viewing them through the little review lcd panel on the camera. But when it came to pick the best this one stood out because of what was in focus (most of the primary flower) and what was out of focus. If I’d thought of it, I should have pulled out my lens that has macro capability and tried to capture interesting reflections through the water droplets which were so stable on the flowers today.
This one was part of the same shoot, but it doesn’t have as much activity going on in the image because it is a single flower. But I find the background, an unopened flower, pleasing. Finding the right focus is difficult for me yet through the lens. I may also need to get my glasses prescription checked.
I really, really like the veining in this iris. They are highlighted because of the way the droplets cling just over the veins in the petals, bringing focus to them. The focus isn’t as clear as maybe I’d like, but that’s okay. I also I like that I captured an open flower, a flower that was dead, and one that is just starting to open up. It speaks to me of stages.
The next one I just enjoy because shoes hanging in silly places hold a special place in my heart (thanks Wood St!) This pair of chucks were new to my daily walk to work, likely a product of some undergrad moving out nearby. I tried cropping it in a little bit, but every time I was disappointed because it lost the context: These are in a tree. So I left the frame as is.
Finally this picture of Faneuil Hall is okay, but the clouds aren’t as dramatic as I remember them. I love clouds. I love their colors and their shapes and their motion. This photograph doesn’t capture any of that really. Maybe the colors, but certainly little drama of clouds after a storm. That’s okay though, I’ll try again some other rainy day.
Finally, I’m caught up with images from today. Nothing really amazing came from today’s walk. That’s alright.
These first two I want to like more than I do. The light, the contrast between the very blue sky and the pink flowers and the white building is pleasing. But there is something missing that makes either a good image. I’m not sure what I’m missing. They are from the same angle, just different zooms (I can’t remember the technical term? Focal length? Something.)
The third I really like the colors an the play between light and shadows. But something keeps it from really popping. Perhaps focus? I may be too tired to really analyze what I’m seeing – or not seeing – today.
The good news is that because it’s spring there are no shortage of beautiful flowers I get to smell while I take my photographs!
After spending a few days in Palm Springs I spent a day in Los Angeles with my dear friend Jasmine. Practically a native herself, she showed me around the city and took me to the Getty museum where I put my camera to good use.
A quick word, all of these images are on flickr to see them in their larger state.
I didn’t have my macro lens with me, so trying to get a good picture of all the bees on the flowers was largely unsuccessful. But when I was reviewing the images I realized that this one captures the bee and the barest hint of a spider’s web. I had to crop it in quite a bit to provide focus to an otherwise lackluster picture, but the result was interesting. Because I’m still reliant on autofocus the focus is completely on the stem of the flower rather than the bee or the spiderweb.
Autofocus and its limitations is the game of the day.
Portraits and taking pictures of people in crowds terrifies me. It feels invasive even when I have permission. But I’d like to take better pictures in general and so Jasmine briefly allowed me to use her as one of my guinea pigs. The best shot I got though was this one before she had said yes and started posing. She may disagree, but I think it captures her real smile and personality.
I really wanted this image to work better than it did. Another problem with autofocus in that it focused on the bark instead of the images. I still really like the colors and the light shaft. It’s really a shame that the focus is weird.
The final two images from this trip I like for very different reasons and it’s hard for me to pick a best for the day. The hidden beauty of these flowers under the tree with the city in the background make this an interesting show. The one thing that bothers me is the branch that protrudes into the foreground and is so out of focus. I mostly don’t see it until all of a sudden BAM! it’s there, distracting me with its unruly greenery.
The other is equally disorienting because of out of focus activity in the foreground, but I find it intriguing because of that. The yellow/red colors of the succulent are so striking that it’s the first thing I notice before the out of focus-ness of them leads me towards the background and to the right where they are in focus. Then suddenly there’s the background, in focus, and such a darker color, that it leads me back to the foreground.
Autofocus: super helpful, but it’s difficult to tell on the review screen whether it actually picked the point of focus I was trying for or something close but not exact. It makes a difference when doing these macro shots.
On day 3 I was able to spend a good amount of the morning wandering around Palm Springs just playing with my camera. I got one image I really, really love, and a few others that I rather like. Because this is my blog and I can do what I want to, prepare to be subjected to my favorite 10 (in no particular order – except the best for last!)
I really wanted to capture the shadows of brown on the mountains juxtaposed agains the green and brown of the palm trees. I wasn’t certain the best way to do this, so I just shot a bunch. This is the one that turned out the best. I hate all the smog that mucks up the colors that I know are so vibrant, but I’m not ready to try my hand at photoshop to attempt to correct that.
Next is perhaps the best sign I saw on my trip. I like this photo because I just think it’s absurd that there’s a law against this behavior and because I just like the light reflecting off metal that both draws me into the text and pushes me away from it as well.
Then there was a series of pictures I took using my macro lens. The first set is a bush of pink and orange flowers I wish I could identify. This one has a certain understated glow about it. Even though the colors are muted, they are still vibrant. Plus being able to see the veining on the petals and leaves is always fun for me.
This one has the opposite feeling. Everything is bright and cheery (slightly blurry) and it looks equally surreal. Both are backlit, I guess, but it’s the shading for both that gives them their mood.
The next two I like to look at against one another because they are from the same angle but the focal point is different. I also had to crop them differently to remove some of the background distraction, so they aren’t a very good “pair.”
Finally there are three where I was trying to capture the interesting contrast of shade and intense light against a pot of succulents. The first of the three does that, sort of, but I think the framing to make either the succulents or the shadow on the pot interesting doesn’t work as well as it could.
The other two are again the result of me framing the picture just slightly differently with drastically different results. One is balanced so the extremely light is directly in the center of the image and only that petal is in clear focus. I really like the composition, but compared to the next one it just isn’t as strong.
This one is my favorite. So much so that I am planning to print it out to add to my wall as I decorate my new apartment. I like the tight framing of the succulent that is contrasted by the light and color in the background. The colors, and the red/green/yellow palette I find pleasing.
I’ve been traveling the past few days in California. The first stop in my journey was Palm Springs and then on to LA. This provided me an opportunity to use my camera on sights and scenes I’d never seen before but also a challenge because I was busy with travel and work.
Although I took this image on Day 2, let’s just forget all about it. I was attempting to capture the sunrise in my murky “I’m just awake and won’t have time to do this later” mind.
I’m learning a new skill: photography. As an art form, photography is one of the few that I appreciate. In my life I’ve managed to capture a few good images and one or two great ones. They’ve all largely been the product of luck rather than technique. I plan to change that!
Over the next 100 days I will be posting (at least) one photo taken during that day that I feel is my favorite or my best from the day. Along with the image I’ll also add some commentary on what happened, what I was trying to capture, whether it worked, and what I might try next time. I have two for today.
The first is an image of Mystic River, near my house. I really like playing with reflections, and this turned out rather well. Unfortunately I forgot to set the white balance before taking most of the shots today so I had to do some editing in photoshop to adjust the colors and such. One day I’ll remember to do that first instead of trying to fix it later.
The second I like because of the whimsy of this teacup in someone’s garden. Although I like the full-size version, I think that cropping it to focus on the cup in the greenery made it a stronger image.