Category: PAD Challenge

It’s been a lovely month, and I have that woman up there to thank for it. (Bit of a cheat, since the photo is a little old, but it is heretofore unpublished. Also, I liked it. So nyah.) The whole project was her idea, and this isn’t the first time she’s injected a little life into my photography career. As my parents have said to me on a few occasions, Meena (my fiancee, if you’re new) is my muse.

I was a little daunted going into this project, and remained rather daunted throughout, really. It was an extremely valuable experience, though — I don’t think I’ve ever sustained a period nearly this long of shooting deliberately and with the intention to make my work public every single day. I took several photos that I really quite liked, a few photos that I was pretty disappointed with, and a lot of stuff in between.

Apparently, some people thought that I didn't take a photo at all for the post with the piggy bank. I offer proof that I did, in fact!

It was strange to be shooting so little of people. Images of people — their relationships, interactions, emotions, etc. — are some of my most favorite to make, and I really only did that effectively on a single day. Mostly, I was constrained by time and access, which forced me to think in ways that I usually don’t. That’s why I don’t think taking all those photos of stuff instead of people was a cop-out — it was genuinely difficult for me. Even on days when I wasn’t very happy with the end result, I had to strain myself during the process. Especially on a project like this, despite its openness, it’s much more about the process than the end result. So even though I’m not exactly thrilled with, say, the Food assignment’s image, coming up with that shot was a valuable experience for me.

I was amazed by the support I got from everyone around me, as well. People with whom I haven’t spoken in ages were telling me that they were having fun following my progress, and that Meena did a fantastic job coming up with the list of words. (She did, too — as soon as I saw the list, I knew it would be very challenging, but also just as much fun.) So if you left any comments, either here or on Facebook, said something to me in person, or simply just read the posts occasionally, that meant an awful lot to me — thank you.

I’m very happy to be able to slow down a little and refocus. This project didn’t leave me with very much time for many other pursuits. But it is looking like it might be a good year for business, and the funny thing about creativity is that the more you exercise it, the more you have. It’s like the opposite of a gas tank. So rather than feeling exhausted from this mile-a-minute project, I’m feeling quite the opposite. I’m excited to put all this energy to use.

In fact, I have a shoot this weekend — more in my typical style — that I’m really excited about. So please check back often if you’re curious to see what I’m up to, and thanks for reading!

If you’d like to see all 28 days of Meena’s challenge, you can view them all in chronological order with this handy link right here. If you’d like to keep on top of what I’m doing photographically, it’s pretty simple to find me on Facebook, or on Twitter, or to subscribe to this blog via RSS.


#28: Self-Portrait

I feel terrible going out on this note. Please don’t look at it too long. A couple reasons: I had originally planned on a much more ambitious photo, and certainly much cooler. Sadly, today was the day — perhaps with some significance — that my 28mm f/1.8 finally bit the dust. I’m crushed over the loss — it simply won’t focus any farther than ~1 foot anymore. I think I know why it failed so early in its life; suffice it to say that it’s not exactly normal wear and tear. It’s also frighteningly loose around the focus ring. For being my most-used lens, and certainly the closest thing I have to a normal lens (on a crop body, of course), imagine that I have a single tear rolling down my cheek.

This occurrence precluded the “cool” photo from being posted for a couple reasons: 1) The lens was integral to the photo I had planned, and 2) I spent more time than I’d care to admit feebly trying to repair the thing. I guess I could still give it a shot if I can get my hands on the right kind of screwdriver.

Alas, the lens certainly served me well throughout this whole project. The vast majority of photos you might have seen throughout Meena’s photo-a-day challenge were shot with my 28mm, including yesterday’s, so at least it went out on a somewhat memorable note.

Somewhat dejected, this is what I shot instead. I deliberately didn’t blank the background, since this is a pretty accurate representation of how I shot about half of the assignments on this project. Basically, if there was anything that wasn’t obviously shot in the street, I shot it in my little living room, as shown above. So I guess it’s not a terrible note to go out on — just not the one I had planned. I still want to take the photo I had originally planned, but that will obviously be delayed a bit. In the meantime, I’ll have to scrounge up an old zoom to cover this focal length. (I have a very exciting shoot coming up this weekend, which won’t be affected, thankfully!)

I’ll be back tomorrow for one last post on this series.

A little flat

#27: Colors

How to appear suspicious

  1. Be male and (apparently) alone
  2. Go to Sephora
  3. Deliberately avoid eye contact with building security, walking past them swiftly
  4. Take as many photos from the hip as possible

I knew what I was going for here, but the process outlined above made things a little more difficult than I’d anticipated. It’s unfortunate that openly carrying a camera will automatically turn a “person” into a “person of interest,” but I guess I’m a little more sympathetic to businesses than I am to paranoid governments. So I got my photo and got out quickly.

If you know what to look for, you can also see that my poor, ailing 28mm appears to be getting worse. The bokeh1 in the back of the photo looks really “plastic” to me (it used to be beautifully smooth and crisp). The focus is also off from what I had anticipated, but like I said, I’d been shooting from the hip. (I’m usually a little better than that! grumble…) I’m wondering if it’s worth it to void a warranty here, or just go straight to Canon.

I can’t believe this is winding down! Tomorrow will be the last post in this series, and I feel it should be a great note to go out on.

1I hate this word. Are there any alternatives?

Narrow spectrum

#26: Villain

I’d been having a little difficulty deciding which direction to go with this one, but settled here. Not much to say — this is another post where the setup is pretty straightforward. Since I couldn’t find Bernie Madoff or any of the other human villains of modern society, I went with one a bit more accessible. All I can say, really, is that I’m really glad I’m not a smoker. Just this pack cost me $11.75!

The theme execution here is also straightforward — comically so, really, but with a theme as evocative as “villain,” I feel like cartoony is a fair direction to go. I feel like that effort is aided by the stark black, white, and red color theme that’s so emblematic of Marlboros, so I ran with it. (Just don’t confuse them with Morleys.)

#25: Freebie 3

Not much time tonight, I’ m afraid, Another freebie, which has turned into “Fridays are most busy. I must go!”

Full post tomorrow, though.

Hit and run

#24: The Future

I might be playing a little fast and loose with the theme today. Not so much “outside the box” as “What box?” This is another one I was at a loss for. (I’m suffering a similar block for Saturday’s image, but I’ll dedicate thought to that later.) As has been the case with most of these that have given me trouble, I couldn’t come up with any idea at all, even one with which I’m not that pleased, until I stopped bashing my head against walls and moved around a bit.

Tonal contrast it low in this image, which miffs me a little. Not that high contrast or supernatural saturation makes an image better if the message doesn’t call for it, but it seems so flat and, well, boring. I feel like this was an image more fun to prepare than to actually shoot. And looking at it, I would kind of like to see a visual representation like this, minute by minute, over the course of an entire work day.

It’s so close

#23: Peace

Today’s another very tired post, and probably not immediately evident. If you know how to play, though, take a look at who can move where. (I promise no one is hiding at h8 or something.) Not much else to say for now — the setup is simple enough — but that this is probably the most nonviolent ending for any given game of chess.

Grey to move

#22: Black & White

This could have been an extremely easy assignment today. I pretty much could have taken a shot of anything, desaturated it, and tossed it up here — it’s New York, after all. Every inch of this city looks good in black and white.

But there’s another kind of black and white that’s endemic to the city, and I wanted to hit the theme as best I could. Technically, the black and white cookie isn’t actually native to New York1, and honestly, it’s more of a cake than a cookie, and the “black” is usually a little more on the “brown” side… so the whole thing is a bit of a misnomer. Alas, its name remains the black and white, thus I maintain its appropriateness.2

I actually had to shave for this photo, since after looking at the first couple of test shots, my laughable five o’clock shadow was noticeable (and disturbing) enough to get me to run in the direction of my razor. Technically very simple stuff, though: One light on an Elinchrom radio trigger (a reliable, affordable alternative to Pocket Wizards, and my usual method of syncing a flash off-camera) directly to camera right, another light optically slaved and simply blowing out the background, and a 5-in-1 reflector flipped to its black side to prevent any bounce from coming off a wall directly opposite the key light. I sort of would like to know what the photo would look like if the background were more of a gradient, going from white to black :: left to right, but… nah.

1Although there’s probably a good reason that most people think it is.

2Astute viewers may note that this is not a “traditional” black and white, but rather a frosted one, like a cake. At least that’s better than the usual fondant, but do not let this deceive you: Eating one of these is always a terrible idea.

#21: Culture

It didn’t take me too long to settle on using graffiti as today’s subject. I love it — I think it’s some of the best art in the modern age. It’s the most democratic art I can think of, it’s often very skillful, and it’s probably the best window an outsider can have to an insular community. In this case, I believe it’s celebrating the matriarch of a local family. (There’s a similar piece around 110th Street commemorating a young man who died a few years back, but was obviously loved.) Much of the graffiti around here is in Spanish, which is to be well expected from Spanish Harlem (or “el barrio” if you’re speaking Spanish).

I like that the image hits today’s theme from a few different angles — art, family, language, you could even say food if you really wanted, but I probably wouldn’t — though it is admittedly not the strongest photo I’ve ever taken technically. You could probably guess, but this was a long exposure — I took several, ranging from 1/10 to 4 seconds — and I tried to do a little bit of finagling to tone down the blown-out windows a little. Ideally, I suppose I would’ve shot this at sunset, but given time constraints, that wasn’t an option. I hate how my 20D doesn’t handle long exposure times very well, often adding in loads of noise, even on a low-ISO shot like this one. But the rumor mill seems to think that the 5D mk III is coming soon, so I guess I’d better start looking for pennies between couch cushions.

If you’d like to see some amazing graffiti art, and read a fascinating story about a secret, hidden exhibition that’s in an abandoned subway station, check out this story about The Underbelly Project.

Queen Celia

#20: Privacy

That didn’t take long! Only one day after I mention that I haven’t done much work in post for this project, I present an image that’s much less “photo” than “shop.” I’m much more okay with it this time than I was with Gotham, though. While Gotham was the product of a tired mind, this was more the product of a working mind. And a little more original, too.

One of the problems I ran into was that Photoshop will not allow you to create a dashed line that follows a path. It should be pretty easy to figure out how I cheated it, though!

“But what does this have to do with privacy?” I hear you ask. Superficially, perhaps not much, unless you’re aware that pretty much all of this information is available to your credit card companies. (I’m aware that Visa issued a denial of sorts, but it seemed to sidestep the issue for legal reasons more than deny the allegation outright to reassure customers.)

It took me most of today bashing my head against my palm to figure out exactly what I’d shoot. I definitely didn’t want to do some hackneyed lock/key thing, and David Hobby already did the paparazzi thing last summer, and much better than a lone person could do. I’m fairly happy with what I settled upon.

By the way, if you’re looking for a real chart of pork cuts, the most accurate one I know of is this one.