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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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…

 

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

“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”

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

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