October, 2011 Archives

Today’s assignment was, “Pick a song and illustrate a verse.” I’m pretty tired here, but just try to guess which song/verse I chose.

#20: Song Lyrics

Today was playing with negative space. It was a very late day at work, and with the sun setting earlier I didn’t have any time to go hunting for a photo. For some reason, my mind went pretty Looney Toons. Kind of fits in with the economic mentality in the air, anyway.

Originally, I wanted only the bean on the plate, but without the context of the fork, it didn’t look clear — especially on a blank white plate. I sacrificed some of that negative space to make room for sense.

I do, however, really like these plates. We received them as a wedding gift, and I love their shape. So I risked taking something that didn’t fit the theme very well, too. I might like this one even better, if only for the texture in the image (or lack thereof).

I also really like the “happy accident” of the warm light on the fork. It wasn’t intentional at first, but I love the look. It’s pretty much the only color on the page at all today.

Listening to music to get me in the mood for tomorrow’s photo…

#19: Negative Space

Rather than go the chemistry class route like I did last time out, I thought I’d use some household chemicals for “Get Chemical.”

I’m a little disappointed with this one technically. I should have seen that my hand would have gotten in the way of the backlight, but it still kind of worked. I might like to try a photo like this in the future, but with a wide lens close up, instead of the 85mm far away, and a different lighting setup. This one was only one light, taped to the top of the shower, with a reflector on the side opposite the shower wall. It didn’t work so well for the bottle of cleaner, but I do like the effect it had on the bubbles.

This is actually a fairly tight crop of a larger photo, but I was really pleased with how the cleaner looked on the glass so close up. It still got the basic message across, so I kept this one.

#18: Get Chemical

If you followed the last photo-a-day project, you might have noticed that there are far fewer “freebies” this month. Well, this will probably be the only one you’ll see this month.

I went out hunting for for an image, any image really, on a pretty tight time budget. Eventually I started practicing panning as a fire truck went by, and just kept doing it with taxis, cars, bicycles, and eventually this couple on a bike. I was pretty happy with how all these turned out — I was shooting at 1/15 of a second, but these all turned out pretty fine. I’m not sure if image stabilization on my lens helped or hurt on that ground, technically speaking, but either way, it came out just fine in my opinion. I especially like the light from the car behind them.

Back to straight assignments tomorrow!

#17: Freebie

Today I was told to “get lost in the woods.” We were still in New Jersey, so that was easier to do than if we had stayed in New York this weekend.

On our way to get coffees, near sunset, I asked if we could pull over near these train tracks. It’s not quite peak color at these latitudes yet, but close enough. Additionally, I met the man and dog while walking down toward the tracks, and liked the image of them riding into the sunset. It was peaceful. I couldn’t hear any traffic, there were no trains around, and it was getting dimmer by the second. I thought the image was appropriate.

#16: Colors!

Today’s assignment was “Mono y Mono.” So I had a little fun split-toning this image. I didn’t have a lot of time to spend shooting today — working all morning and family events in the evening — so I caught this one at the 96th Street 6 station on our way to New Jersey. I caught the kid out of the corner of my eye right as the train was pulling in to the station, so I quick pulled out my camera really quick and got this as best I could.

#15: Mono y Mono

Tonight’s assignment said that “I still have mono.” I decided not to be as cutesy as I possibly could be with this, although it’s still pretty far on that spectrum: it’s not black and white, but it’s certainly monotone.

Down by the Flatiron Building, they’re hosting an event that’s providing an audience for a lot of local food vendors. And it is amazing! Tonight, Meena and I enjoyed an olive and feta pretzel from Sigmund’s Pretzelshop. If you’re NYC local, you owe it to yourself to try it.

Additionally, this photo is the antithesis to the assignment, but I wanted to publish it anyway. It is from the same event.

#14: Still have mono

Today’s assignment was, “Sometimes we all see the world in black and white.” While I did use it as part of an excuse to finally visit the Occupy Wall Street protests with my good friend Josh Crowley, I’m not using “Black and White” to describe any philosophy here.

I usually try not to get to political in this space, but going down to see these protests has made me especially appalled at the media coverage of what’s been going on. Yes, there was some crazy aged hippie with hand-drawn swastikas on his t-shirt, saying something about American terrorism, and yes, there was one person with a Guy Fawkes mask. But the majority of the people down at OWS were entirely reasonable people, who wanted nothing more than to have their voices heard and engage in very satisfying conversation. I don’t think I had a single conversation tonight where I agreed with everything that a person was saying, but everyone was respectful.

I’ll try to stop talking politics and start talking photography as best as possible.

I wish I could have chosen a single image for this post, but I took so many that I enjoyed. Many, like this one, are not so impressive technique-wise. However, tonight reminded me of my photojournalism days: I wasn’t setting up a shot, I was storytelling.

As you may know, early this morning, Mayor Bloomberg announced on the radio that he was going to essentially evacuate the park for “cleaning.” The protesters would be welcome back after the cleaning was done… but they wouldn’t be allowed to bring tents or sleeping bags, or anything else that would allow them to maintain a continued protest.

This man’s sign is no joke. Zuccotti Park is clean. And don’t just take my word for it:

This might be my favorite photograph of the night. It provides context, but really it shows the dedication of these men and women, who are not too proud to clean a city park just for the promise of the continued right to peacefully assemble.

While I’m on the subject, this signifies something else that was immensely surprising to me. Reading the media coverage of this protest, one would expect nothing but a group of “dirty hippies” or young college grads too lazy to get a job. Nothing could be further from the truth. These people with brooms and scrub brushes are part of the OWS Sanitation Committee, one of many that the group has organized during their occupation. In fact, these guys are highly¬†organized.

This is the weakest photograph of the bunch, but if I had done a better job, this would have been the post’s lead image — only because it’s the most literal interpretation of “Black and White” that I think is possible. There was a General Assembly going on at the time, but I was really tickled by these two, who seemed vaguely disturbed that all these people were crowding around them during their intense chess game.

As part of the cleanup effort, people were piling all their possessions up, safely stowed in waterproof plastic bags to be picked up by a truck and stored in a safe place. I took this photo, and then had a brief conversation with another man on the street. It might have been ten minutes total. By the time the man had to leave to take a phone call, the entire heap was gone. It had been piled up into the truck for “delivery.”

While that effort was going on, the police officer in white, above, asked the protesters to move their truck. The man gesturing was one of the drivers, and he’s pointing in the direction of where he had been idling before being forced to move.

It’s worth making a note on photography here, and that I actually enjoy these photos a lot more in black and white than I did in color. I feel that it gives them a harder, more “newsy” edge that they benefit from. Additionally, toning these photos as black and white means they don’t have the same issues with digital noise that color photographs do, when shooting at ISO 1600 or even 3200 on an 8-year-old camera.

After they moved their truck, the police officer in white wrote them a parking ticket. The recipient of this ticket was apparently a man named Peter. The protesters chanted, “We love you, Peter!” and loudly announced, “Peter! We’ll pay your parking ticket! Don’t worry!” The attitude in the air was strongly one of, “We’ll keep protesting.”

Well, tonight’s photo represents something of a failure. The assignment was, as the title suggests, “Full Moon.” Indeed, October 12, 2011 is supposed to be a full moon — not only that, but the smallest full moon of the year! Tonight (or yesterday, depending on who you ask), the moon is as far from the earth as it will be for the next lunar year. In fact, in May of 2012, the moon will appear fully 12% bigger than it looks right now. Isn’t that something! There are some real photographic possibilities there!

Unless, of course, you’re experiencing complete and total cloud cover. Tonight, I downloaded Stellarium on my home computer to calculate exactly where the moon would be when I got home from work, and spent nearly two hours vainly trying to find it and hoped for the cloud cover to break, even momentarily.

Alas, that didn’t happen. It didn’t even come close. I did see this monstrosity at the right, but that’s about it. (Click it for bigger.) I noticed it initially because of the shadow it was casting on the other side of the street — it looked exactly like a Ferris Wheel. I was so intrigued that I had to take a photo of this thing, even a mediocre one.

At the same time, I was kicking myself for not even bringing my tripod — I could have at least¬†shot some neat photos of the East River at night, a stop and a half underexposed. But not without my tripod.1

As I was walking home, feeling defeated, I thought to myself, “A full moon. Jeez. At this point, I would even take a photo of a teenager with a round and cratered face.” Somehow — and don’t ask exactly how — that reminded me of the 1902 film A Trip to the Moon, and seeing this as my entirely last possibility for the evening, I came home and shot the image at the top of this post. And I’m happy to say I was still able to put my own photographic spin on the image, which some of you may see immediately.

I can still say that I am still shooting at least one photo every day!

1 I am proud to say that the tripod I have used for my entire photography career used to belong to my grandfather, Robert W Appleton, who had an amazing photographic ability to capture people naturally in their element.

March of the Pyramids


Today was “Fun with Shapes,” and I feel like it really helped me get back into the swing of things after a couple boilerplate, not-so-great assignments. I had about an hour to kill on the Upper West Side due to work anyway, so it got me walking out and about looking for a subject to shoot.

The above image is the first one I shot. I have to admit I felt a pang of awkwardness, wondering what people would think when they saw some idiot taking photos of what we all walk by, every day, and if we think of it at all, we think of it as an annoyance. I thought, “What do I have to gain by not taking the shot?” So I did, and I was really happy with how it turned out. So happy that I thought I’d continue and see what else I could find — and that’s why there are several images here.

Once or twice, someone did make a snide comment, like, “Cool photo, man.” (In good faith, it may in fact not have been snide at all, but merely a projection of those awkward feelings. Whatever it was, I resolutely convinced myself that I wouldn’t let it bother me.)

It was some pretty prime conditions for shooting. Just after 5:00pm, on a pleasantly warm and overcast-yet-bright October day. I was a little worried that I wouldn’t find enough to interest me, but I was happy to have found a glut of interesting things to shoot in a very small radius (about one block by four blocks). I could have easily killed another hour, if not more, on this same assignment.

In playing with shapes, I found myself not merely looking for familiar or foreign geometries, but those same shapes repeating themselves. Patterns are a very effective tool of composition to begin with, but particularly in this case, when I had to be very deliberate as to what I was showing off, they were nearly the only compositional tool I had.


For these reasons, I had to have a very keen eye for detail. The above image, in my mind, is kind of a failure in that regard. I had something very specific in mind when I made this image, but the line to walk for it is so thin, and I didn’t cut it. The light behind the black railing is too distracting, and I should have been the smallest smidgen of a millimeter to the right, so that that last black arc didn’t slam crashing into the archway.

Conversely, I was pretty happy with how this one turned out. It took me a bit of fidgeting and playing with focal length to achieve the effect that I wanted, but this was it. Click the photo for bigger version.

(More photos below)

Other photos, such as this one above, are pretty obvious, but I hope not trite. I ended up liking this photo more than I felt like I should allow myself, along with the next two.

I did feel like a complete idiot shooting this one. But hey, fits the assignment, yeah? And part of what was so enjoyable about today’s was looking at the same stuff I look at every day in a new way.

The image on the left was one that I wasn’t completely satisfied with, and probably wouldn’t even have posted it, except that after I had taken it, a man said to me, “You should take a photo of what it looks like with all this open air.” Apparently, that tree had only very recently fallen down (perhaps during Hurricane Irene?) and all that sky in the photo on the right used to be filled with leaves.






Not much to say about all these, except that I quite liked them. Especially with the previous three and the next two, I feel like I got just what I was aiming for. The final shot happens to be my favorite.