Category: October Challenge

If you’ve visited before, you may be familiar with the Photo-A-Day Challenge that my fiancée (now wife!) gave me back in February. This blog has seen radio silence for the past few months, due to wedding planning, but now I’ve been given a new challenge to jump-start things again! And this one’s assignment list has a rather different character. For the first assignment of the month, I had to take portraits of a few random strangers.

We were visiting our friends Ali and Aaron Eisenhauer, who live in upstate New York. As such, I did this one at a farmer’s market near Lake George.





David and his glorious cheeses


Meena didn’t know it when she assigned it, but this was actually the very first photo assignment I ever had, back in college in David Rees’s Fundamentals of Photojournalism class. It was a lot more socially awkward the first time around than this time — positively easy. But these folks were also the friendliest strangers I’ve ever asked to photograph. I’ll have to do this same thing again in the city to see if I have a similar experience…

“Pick a color, any color, and make a collage!”

I chose blue. It’s not something that occurs too often in plants, particularly in autumn. Ideally, I would’ve had many more photos, but alas — today was a travel day, back from upstate. Averaging all the colors of this collage yields the hex code #5e6271 — a sort of greyish blue.


#2: Blue

For this one, I was told to rest up, and find an abstract in the apartment. I think this one’s pretty obvious, but perhaps not? The lighting is unconventional. I was originally going to use a strobe, but that ended up not working out. So I improvised! Not much else to say about this one — I did as I was told and rested up a little.

#3: Abstract

The title of this post was the only instruction I was given for today, along with a link to this Photoradar post. Truth be told, I didn’t read that post at all past looking at the first photo. On this sort of project, I don’t want to be following step-by-steps — the inspiration from the photo up top was all I needed to get the message. So I’m still not sure if I did exactly what they did, but I’m guessing not. For one, I don’t have a macro lens, and I didn’t want to be flipping the 50mm I used ’round to turn it into a macro lens. (I’ve never had the chops to successfully execute that trick in the first place, let alone with the setup I had here.)

What I did end up doing was slapping my camera up on a tripod with a shutter release, with a cerulean-gelled speedlight mounted behind a white screen. (Rita Reed‘s “Metal and Glass” assignment has always stuck with me, I guess. If only I could have shot this back then!) Meena assisted me by triggering the shutter with a remote release, 2.5-second shutter speed in a completely dark room. That long shutter speed allowed me to determine the exact moment I would capture the water droplet far better than if I had tried to sync the shutter with the water droplet.

I quite like most of this image...


...but I like this one's action much more. If I had better Photoshop skills, I would have made a composite of the two.


I just love the moment captured here -- it seems to be the exact moment the water droplet extended fully into the glass. Too bad the rest of the photo isn't as compelling.


Toward the end, I experimented with double exposures. This isn't such a great image, except that I couldn't believe that I scored two direct bullseyes.

Anyone who tells you that taking water droplet photos is a painstaking process… they’re completely correct. If I had been more detail-oriented during this process, I would have dried the set in between each individual photograph, probably with a hair drier.

All the same, it was really fun to pull this off. I had never thought that I had the patience to do water droplet photography, but when made to, it wasn’t so bad after all. Tomorrow will be pretty challenging in rather the opposite direction…

#4: Don’t Get Wet!

Sometimes, when I set about for one of these photos, I don’t get the photo I had in mind, but learn something else anyway. Today’s lesson was that there is no substitute for hot lights, apparently.

I had originally been setting out for something like this ten-minute Youtube, but obviously that did not work. I knew right off the bat that I didn’t actually have hot lights (sad but true) but I tried to fake it. The banding effect up there is not faked or Photoshopped in any way. It’s the result of me trying to use the Multi mode on my 580 EXes as a makeshift hot light, but I should have known that that would produce something like this, if not worse. Digital sensors tend to see things a little differently from film sensors, and this is where it’s most evident: A high-frequency light.

I’m not very happy with this, but I’m sure I’ll make it up soon.

#5: Cell Phone

Last time around, I tended to use myself as a model a bit too much. This time around — especially considering one of the later assignments, and given that I now have a much better looking model living with me now — I thought I’d ask her to pose. Lucky me, she was willing!

The assignment, of course, was painting with light. I haven’t done this in ages, and it’s a lot of fun. Unfortunately, it also takes a lot of time, which I didn’t have tonight. That’s actually part of what I really like about these photo-a-day challenges — there’s the necessity of expedience in order to keep delivering one every day. Of course, that’s much less than what a lot of really great photojournalists do every day.

One of the things I do like about this photo very much is that it indicates the great imagination that my wife has. You could show her a jumbled mess of color and light, and she would read something into it. She’s written some wonderful stuff — short films, comedy sketches, even a children’s book — and she continues to surprise me with her creativity. I was actually kind of hoping to capture that with my technique, but I think that she got that a lot better through her expression.

Speaking of technique, I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get the white light going over Meena’s forehead or something. It’s an LED that I swirled around her while she sat down, but I didn’t get that effect down accurately. (The red light is a laser pointer projected on the wall behind her. It made our cat, Bernard, go crazy.) I feel like if I had had about two hours to complete the assignment, I could have done it to my satisfaction, but that time I did not have.

One thing these photo-a-day projects really drive home for me is that I should have used the photo studio in college an awful lot more. It was free for students to use, for as long as they needed, so long as no one else did. Tons of lights, gels, modifiers, backdrops, and a lot of space. What I wouldn’t give for that now! But there’s value in that, too, and another part of the fun of these is making these work in our tiny apartment, with my budget — or even improvised — equipment. Sometimes, it’s even more satisfying that way.

#6: Light Painting

I’m at least a lot happier with this self-portrait than the last one I did for a project like this — even if you think it’s bad, at least it shows more creative latitude. The last thing I wanted to do was a two-light setup with a shutter release to take my own headshot.

Instead, I decided to show myself as I appear to myself — roughly. As I was editing, I actually ended up quite liking the “disjointed photograph” appearance that this has, so I didn’t even try to remedy it. There was another approach I might have taken, but it would have involved many costume changes, and would have been a third-person perspective instead of a first-person. I’ve never seen someone try something like this (unlike yesterday’s, which I’m sure I’ve seen before), so I’m much more satisfied with this one. It’s not the most technically capable, by far — punctuated by the fact that my flash remotes need to be charged — but I’m still happy with what happened for this one.


#7: Self-Portrait

“Wild life. Go to the zoo or get Bernard to pose? Just be safe. I like a man who has all his limbs. Really though – take a fun picture with Bernard. I’ll sleep better.”

I think I mentioned earlier that the list this time had a bit more personality to it, and this is certainly a good example. And it’s a pretty good example of how our cat (Bernard) isn’t too good at the whole “homicidal psycho jungle cat” thing. But we spent almost all day at Ikea, and I quite wanted this plant for the shot — anything to get a little more of the “wildlife” part into the assignment.

Technically, it’s not a very good photo, but he had gotten tired of modeling (and at getting yelled at for eating the plant) pretty quickly, so I used what I got. We do end up taking an awful lot of photos of him, though, so here is a bonus photo I suppose.

#8: “Wildlife”


Today, I had to do something in threes: Take three different shots of one subject, or three different subjects. I kind of combined the two to come up with this!

I’m pretty pleased with it. Technically very simple, although apparently all my batteries for my remotes are D-E-A-D dead, so I just used two sync cables linked together.

I hadn’t noticed it until Meena told me, “It looks like an ad for Crate & Barrel.” Sure enough, you can buy all these things from their fine store. (We got all of that from our generous wedding guests, natch.) So, of course, I’ll happily accept a commission, C&B bigwigs.

And, of course, it’s always nice to enjoy the spoils of a shoot once it’s done. *sips wine*

#9: Threes

The title of this was my assignment. I’m guessing it may have been inspired by the big metal “A” up there, but there was no way I couldn’t incorporate it here.

It was a little harder to actually find things that began with A than I would have expected, but I feel like I did a pretty decent job. I count 11 such things in the above image –no duplications intended — though it may be a bit of a stretch in some cases.

Technically not much to talk about on this one! Today was more of a scavenger hunt.

#10: A is for…