February, 2011 Archives

#18: Freebie 2

Rather limited by time, location, equipment, and a guiding theme, this is pretty much what I could pull together today. I’m a bit disappointed in myself to use light painting to do something as straightforward as this, but that’s more reason to do something I enjoy in the near future.

Here’s this one too, since if you’re not getting quality, you might as well get quantity:

A photo every day

#17: Food

Today’s is an example of a photo for which I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to do, but it wasn’t as interesting as I had thought it could be. However, by doing it, I know the shot I would like to try instead: That grapefruit is pretty interesting when backlit like this. If I could get my hands on a macro lens, I would definitely want to investigate that.

Speaking of lenses, my much-loved 28mm f/1.8 seems to be falling apart at the seams, rather literally. It’s quite troublesome — it’s the lens that’s probably on my camera most often — so I might need to look in to home repair. Hrm.

One more and it’s a salad

#16: Gotham

One of the fun things about this entire project has been a freedom from that which usually confines me: Even though I really never work as a photojournalist anymore, I find a lot of value from the training and experience I have as one. I try to bring it into my current work, as well. However, seeing as how this is really a personal project, I’ve been trying to cut that a little loose and really just have fun with the assignments.

I mentioned in a previous post that I’d rather post a crappy photo than no photo at all. That’s precisely what happened today, but I’m not feeling too guilty about it. I was stymied about the assignment to begin with, but with a tiny time budget and an exhausted mind, I went the Batman route, more or less. (Astute fans might note that the quote in the above “panel” doesn’t strictly come from a Batman comic.)

I do loathe the fact that today’s image lacks a strong subject — I’m firmly of the belief that you can’t post-produce an image into interesting territory.* Alas, today being another incredibly busy day, I did that which I could, and I had fun with it.

*David duChemin might say, “There’s no un-suck filter.” And he is completely correct.


#15: Buzz

Having been hit with an inability to sleep as of late, “buzz” was holding some pretty strong associations for me lately. I’m not sure where it was presumed I would go with “buzz” — I’m imagining either alcohol or bees, or alcoholic bees — but this was what made sense to me today. I had a clear idea, anyway. I didn’t execute it very well technically. Poor focus, should’ve used a narrower aperture, and ideally I would’ve had a better model. The clock doesn’t stand out nearly as much as I’d like it to, either, but I probably would’ve needed a third light and more time, and neither of those was budgeted for today.

On a shot like this, I’ve been learning that sometimes I just need to finish up however I can and move on. Very tight schedule on these, and I simply don’t have the time to make them perfect. It’s been more about the creative process. Talking with Meena about that last night, I might in the future try to redo some of the concepts I really like playing with and apply that perfectionist eye. We’ll see. For now, I’m thinking about tomorrow’s shot.

Basically every morning

#14: Love

I again wanted to avoid the obvious with today’s post — particularly it being Valentine’s Day and all — though I’m not sure I so much succeeded in communicating what I intended. It made sense to me when I thought of the idea last night, awake, staring at the clock, wishing for sleep, and I more or less executed the shot I intended, although sloppily. The thought behind it was just that I like the idea that neither card could stand up without the support of the other one being there doing the same. I guess that’s a little schmaltzy, but come on, it’s Valentine’s Day. Cut me some slack, eh?

That’s about it for today’s post. I’ve been awake for around 34 of the last 36 hours, so methinks I’ll go collapse. Let me know if I’ve mistakenly communicated something I didn’t intend, though.

All You Need

#13: History

I think the only way you could cram more local history into this photo is if Zombie Robert Moses were shambling across the frame. It might not be immediately clear at this size (sorry about that — third day in a row shooting with bad glass), but that’s the grave of Alexander Hamilton, right outside Trinity Church on Wall Street.

Alexander Hamilton was a true New Yorker: He wasn’t born here (they never are) and built himself out of nothing. As the first Secretary of the Treasury and a man influential to the country’s economic policies in its nascent days, it’s fitting for him to be buried here, in the heart of the financial district. His duel with Aaron Burr was one of the less fascinating aspects of his incredible life, influential to the United States and to New York.

Trinity Church, while maybe not a household name, was influential in a very different way. The people of Trinity Church are largely responsible for Lower Manhattan looking the way it does. After the church — and much of Manhattan — was burned to the ground in the Revolutionary War, Trinity Church (which is still one of the largest landowning entities in the city) was a major backer in the rebuilding effort. This is why so many of the streets around Wall Street have “churchy” names — Rector, Vestry; even Vesey and Barclay are named after prominent men at Trinity Church during that time, I believe.

It’s funny how many people must walk past this grave every day and not even know what it is. Since I was sticking out a bit, people would glance over to see what I was shooting, and at least three groups of people were surprised to see the name “Alexander Hamilton.”

The week will probably be filled with some more set up shots, since I won’t get much shooting done during the day. And I’ll finally be back to shooting with primes!

12 July 1804

#12: Toys

Possessing neither the collection of toys I used to own, nor the budget to recreate it, I couldn’t make an image of toys in any of the epic battle situations I had placed them in as a kid. But I was delighted to find this shot at FAO Schwarz on 5th Avenue. Having it and other things like it right in my backyard, I like to make use of my surroundings whenever I can.

Time of day was critical on this one. That might not be immediately obvious, and that’s exactly why. But because of those big windows taking up most of the background, a shot of this taken in broad daylight would blow out the background, or at least be distracting, and at night it would be littered with pinpricks of headlights and office windows. But the perfect amount of light just after sunset plus the necessary white balance keeps everything a pleasing shade of blue. As you might’ve guessed, I didn’t plan this shot, merely found it, but I’ve been to the store enough times to know that the walls were made of glass.

I quite like that in this place made for children, two adults enjoyed just being there and watching the hullabaloo from an isolated vantage point.

That’s about all I have the time for on this one. I’m heading out in a few minutes to shoot some video for Starnes & Shah, a great band made of great people! Enjoy the rest of your weekend, folks.

No Big Piano for this one

#11: Freebie 1

“So this ‘freebie’ thing on the list, does that mean I get the day off?” “Ha! No, that means I get the day off from telling you what to shoot. You still have to shoot something.” Today I’m posting the first of three Freebie days.

Having spent the last few days creating set-up shots in my apartment, I was a little desperate to shoot, well, people. I’m really pleased with my recent work (although yesterday’s, ideally, would’ve had a blue kick light coming from the left and smoke coming out of the teapot — maybe in the future). However, these days, most of my photography involves people. They’re usually aware that I’m taking their photo, but I’ve done plenty of street and news photography in my day. It’s not what I’m best at by a long shot, but this photo, taken along the East River Esplanade pretty far uptown, was a breath of fresh air for me as a photographer, the cracker in between glasses of wine. And I’m fairly happy with it, too.

I’ve never been a champion of zoom lenses, but I certainly see their usefulness — particularly in documentary style photography. I’m a little more warmed up to them these days than I have in the past, but still, being spoiled by minutely controlled environments over the past year or so, the pedantic pixel peeper in me is pretty irked by the aberration around the tree branches and the distortion from this lens.* Not the most endearing nor desirable traits in a photographer, but what I’m learning is that I would like a few zooms in my arsenal — I just would like to be picky about them, if at all possible.

Tomorrow I’m back to thematic structure, and I have a bit more of a clear head about it now, too.

* Canon EF-S 17-85 IS USM f/4-5.6. Not exactly a kit lens, but only about one step above. I kind of loathe the EF-S line for a bundle of reasons to begin with, but overall it tends to be a serviceable but mediocre low-to-middle budget lens. All right, I’ll try to stop all this “tech talk” junk now, and simply try to make good photographs no matter the gear — promise.

Sunset jog

#10: Zeal

This assignment, like Anarchy, gave me heaps of trouble when I was trying to come up with a concept. I don’t think this is quite as much of a failure as that one was — at least there’s some sort of idea at play here, and it did require a certain degree of technical prowess. (Not a lot, mind you.) Plus, I’ve had a hankering to shoot some fire ever since the lackluster Nature shoot, so this was as good a time to do it at any. Important disclaimer: I’ve shot fire before and this was done safely. Please do not attempt to replicate in your own studio or home.

All said, with a ten-hour work day and four hours of wedding planning across state lines, it was midnight before I could even begin shooting today’s assignment. To be honest, there was a period of time today where I was worried I wouldn’t be able to post anything at all, but I refuse to accept that, today or any other day. I don’t care so much if I have to post a crappy photo every now and then, but I am beholden to posting a photo every single day, at the absolute least.

Anyway, this is relating to the theme — think politically — but I’m not trying to make a qualitative statement with this one. No matter which side of the fence you fall on with this group of people, it is undeniable that they are, at the very least, very passionate.

#9: Temptation

I’ve been trying to avoid cliches with this assignment, but as soon as I saw this assignment on the list, I knew that this was pretty much the exact image I wanted to shoot. I’m quite happy with how it turned out, for the most part.

Simple two-light setup again. One was snooted directly overhead, pointed downward at the cake. I had black posterboard set up as essentially “seamless.” I cut the horns out of the paper and hung a red posterboard behind it, and underexposed it by maybe a stop, stop-and-a-half with another slaved strobe. Easy peasy! I’m a little displeased by the obvious jaggedness of the cutout; I would do a better job of this if there were a next time. I could probably fix it with some dedicated editing, too, but I simply don’t have the time. It’s not a dealbreaker for me.

I’m happy with the texture on the cake. The lighting is pretty much exactly as I imagined, and the white plate bouncing a lot of light back up at the cake itself is instrumental for this.

A final note: I did not succumb to this temptation! My stomach was growling the whole time, but I ended up giving it away. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go pat myself on the back.