Thursday, April 29, 2010

Reunited at last.

On Monday the 24th of April, my camera and I were finally reunited. After over a month of depressed separation, it was in my hands once again. Good things happened while it was being repaired, I certainly learned a lot about creativity. It was also drilled into me quite well that the camera doesn't take good pictures, I take good pictures with the camera. It is me, not the equipment, that determines a good photograph.

It's so easy to get caught up in the glamor and excitement of sophisticated equipment.This last year has been a whirlwind of technical knowledge and immersion into new cameras and electronic items. Bodies, lenses, cables, flashes. It's all so much and so very exciting. One step at a time though.

I've been ecstatic to have my camera back. I can hardly believe how much I've missed it. I feel so complete with it back in my hands, it feels right to be shooting with it. Having had it for three years I've developed some amazing muscle memory regarding the button placement.

I was discussing this with a friend, do I love my D80 so much because I'm used to it? Because I've had it for so long? Because it was my first dSLR? All of the above, perhaps? No matter the reason, it is my favorite and I will never kick it out of my life. I hope to have a D300s by the end of the year, but my D80 will always have a special place in my heart.

The shoe photos up there are from my 365 of the day. I bought them two days ago and they're really comfortable; they're the first new pair I've bought in quite a long time.

For the photos I just pointed my SB800 at the shoes with the dome diffuser on. I took a lot of different shots with the shoes at various angles and moved the flash around to get the most interesting lighting. I have sorely missed being able to use a nice off camera flash. I love my SB800. I'm really learning how to make the most of only having one, and I certainly look forward to the day when I have multiples!

There haven't been that many photo opportunities for me since I received my camera, unfortunately. I've been otherwise preoccupied with work and school, getting home late and going to bed! This weekend will change that though. I'm participating in the 24 hour Photo-thon! Expect lots and lots of photos next week.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fabulous nature and an unpleasant discovery.

Let me start off with the bad news.

I discovered today that when I export edited versions of full resolution photos through Aperture with the option "jpeg-original size", it downgrades the files from 240 ppi to 72 ppi. All of my carefully edited photos from the past two to three months are at an unprintable resolution.

Perhaps I would have discovered this horrifying fact sooner, but I use Actions to resize my photos for the web, so I never see the resolution.

I'm feeling a little distraught about this, especially considering the fact that all of my California photos (of which there are hundreds) were edited and exported through Aperture. I do not want to do it again. The files are OK for 4x6 prints. I guess if I want to print them larger I can re-edit on a case by case basis. Ugh.

In better news, I have more photos from my adventure at Ryan and Olivia's place. They live nestled in the woods and are absolutely surrounded by beautiful natural scenery. Not far from their house is a lake. A wonderful lake. I had the pleasure of being taken there by them at just about sunset. The lake was like glass, something that I've always wanted to be able to photograph. Such perfect reflections of the surrounding trees.

Olivia has some great tulips growing as well. It was nice to photograph the flowers. She's very proud of them, it was fun to get some good photos for her.

Today is two weeks since I received a call from the repair shop saying they should have my camera back for me to pick up in two weeks. I was very disappointed that they didn't call me today. Today also happens to mark the one month anniversary of the day I dropped my camera. One month. I feel like I've forgotten what it's like to own it. I miss it so much. It sort of feels like it was in another life that I had a nice dslr with multiple lenses and a nice flash. It's making me freaking insane! I'm ready to have it back. I swear after I pick it up from the store I'm going to sleep with it in my arms for weeks.

D80 I miss you and I love you and I'll never take you for granted ever again! Fingers crossed that I'll get that call tomorrow.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Candid portraits.

I'm going to go ahead and say that today is the first time I've ever put real effort toward good candid photography.

I've been thinking a lot about my upcoming documentary assignment, and in order to do it proper I need to get some grade A candids of my subjects. I had a perfect opportunity for practice today! Lovely warm weather and my beautiful friend Olivia.

Photographing her is something I've wanted to do for a long time. She has fantastic eyes and amazing hair. She lives far away though and we have very conflicting schedules, obviously making it difficult to schedule some sort of photo session.

Today just so happened to be her boyfriend's birthday and she threw a party for him. So, while we waited for him to get home from work, she, another friend of ours and myself waited around outside and enjoyed the sunshine. She planted some tulips that she's quite proud of, which made for a very easy reason to start snapping pictures and acclimate us all to having my camera out. I quickly turned my attention to her though.

She was an amazing candid model. I took tons of shots, most weren't great, but the ones that were are just fantastic I think. She was conversing with our friend and I sat waiting for her to pause (talking photos are almost never good!). It was tiring work, snap snap snapping away while she spoke, knowing I was getting undesirable shots.

The good shots were a total payoff though. They're so natural and comfortable, such real moments were captured. It feels good to look at them and know they weren't staged. All in all, my first real candid portrait session was a complete success and I feel better about my upcoming assignment!


Monday, April 12, 2010

The camera keeps changing. Creativity bonus as a possible result?

This is just a quick note about my camera situation.

I should have my D80 back within the next two weeks. I want it so badly I swear I can taste it, I miss my camera! In the meantime, I have been using my mom's digital point and shoot. It has been leading me well and I've been happy with the shots I've taken with it. Well, on Friday I accidentally left that camera at work! I was using it to take pictures of the party my co-workers/bosses/friends threw for me while at work. What has happened as a result? Cell phone pictures! Things just got more interesting. Here are the last four photos I've taken for my 365, all with my cell phone. It's funny how I wasn't that bothered by the situation. I was so angry about using the point and shoot, but when I realized I would have to use my cell phone camera I shrugged and thought, "I can still take good photos with this". 

These four photos certainly aren't the best that I've ever taken, I'm just proud of myself for believing my abilities and realizing that good equipment doesn't make a good photo.

A window in the bathroom of the Ballyhoo, and Irish pub in Oympia.

The view of downtown Olympia from the top of the 4th ave bridge.

The beginning trail of Gazzam Park on Bainbridge Island.

Somewhere close to Shelton during my drive from Poulsbo to Olympia.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

New beginnings? Do-Overs? Let's pretend that didn't happen?

Two days ago, life interrupted in the most common of ways, and the result was that I forgot to post my 111th photo.

Inconsolably distraught is the only way to describe me as I realized this with a gasp at 1:30 in the morning. Commence sobbing.

When starting my 365 project, I imagined that if there were any slip-ups then I would start over. Back to photo number one. Well, that unfortunate day approached, and as I sat in bed choking and crying I decided that I wasn't interested in starting over and I certainly wasn't quitting.

So, I picked up the next day with photo number 111. I didn't think I would get as far as the 100s before slipping up and I am incredibly proud of myself. This project is important to me and I'm going to see it through. I envision more issues in the future anyway. Nothing will stop me!

Today as I approached a large staircase at school, I began to ponder if it would make a good photo. I continued to walk toward the stairs, and then stopped. I heard Ryan's voice in my head, "take a photo of anything that even remotely interests you". So I backed up and took out my mom's camera, squatted down and took a few photos. I should have taken more because I ended up cropping my favorite one to make an even better shot.

Earlier today I was looking through The Best Camera Is The One That's With You by Chase Jarvis. That man is a wealth of inspiration! His quotes and photos are so uplifting. There are photos everywhere. Everywhere! I'm excited to post more in the coming days. I'm liking my random photos more and more every day.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Which is right?

At this moment in time I don't anticipate posting any photos. It would appear that this is going to be wordy and full of musings.

In-camera editing, post-editing. Minimal digital tweaking, or all out overhaul?

Which one is right?

I struggle with this thought process everyday. Is it OK to shoot a photo with every intention to edit the crap out of it later? Does that change the integrity of the image, does it say something bad about my capabilities of capturing what I want in-camera? Do I gain more credibility and creativity if I do minimal computer editing to my images? Is it more impressive to post photos that are perfect out of camera, or to create exactly what and have a pleasing affect through the use of programs like Photoshop?

I don't really know and therein lies my problem. Which one do I lean toward? Or is it OK to change my mind whenever the situation calls for it?

For instance, the photos that I've been posting lately have been from a simple pocket digital camera. The photos that I've been taking with it are (sometimes) interesting in terms of composition and content, but the colors aren't vibrant and overall the images are fairly flat. When taking the photos I'm already planning on throwing them into Photoshop and changing them up to make them pop. The end result is a photo that I quite like, both because of the content and the changes I've made in post. Does this change the way a viewer feels about the photo? How about me? Do I feel like I've cheated if I've achieved what I'm looking for, but it happened through computer editing?

My camera isn't capable of capturing reality, just a digital representation of it. I look at my fresh-out-of-camera photos and I go, "The colors aren't quite right, this is low contrast, the grass was far greener than that!". So I go in and I change things until I see what my memory says I saw. To me, the world is ultra colored and fascinating. I want my colors to pop. Sometimes I make photos where the color is far more poppy than I remember it being, and that's because what I've done to the photo becomes my way of representing a memory, even if I know it isn't entirely accurate.

What I'm talking about here doesn't include changing the content of an image. No taking someone out or putting someone in to create an event that never happened. I'm mostly talking about colors and brightness. I enjoy making the blacks black and the brights blown out and upping the vibrance. Some photos thrive off of looking dirty and grainy, while others benefit from an ethereal bright quality that didn't exist in the original file.

Currently my two largest photography influences are Joe McNally and Chase Jarvis. McNally does almost all of his work in-camera and does minimal tweaking in post work. Jarvis has an amazing way with creating heavily edited images to great effect. I feel so torn. Which one do I want to do? Can I go ahead and do both depending on the situation? I'm going to go ahead and guess yes, I just wish this nagging feeling whenever I edit an image a lot would go away. It's my work, I can do what I want.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Win some, lose some.

I don't know how long I'll be on this "random photo" kick, but until I'm finished it looks like I'm going to be doing photo dumps and talking about my day. Part of me wants to stop and go back to one photo subject per day, but the other part of me is having a lot of fun photographing everything that catches my eye and then picking my favorite one for my 365 photo. Of course I could do both. I believe I will starting tomorrow. Actually, probably starting Saturday because tomorrow I'm going to a concert right after work.

I've been thinking more about my restraints regarding abstract and artistic photography. I remember being in high school and letting my friends use my digital camera. They would frequently take the camera and angle it while taking a photo, or take a photo of something random for a crooked/low to the ground viewpoint. I never understood it and I recall it irritated me a lot. Especially the angled portraits of people. I would tell them not to do that because the photos would be crooked in my albums.

Thinking about it now, I know that I believed them to be taking pretentious, fake artsy photos and I didn't understand them. To me, photos were supposed to be straightforward, I was supposed to know where to look and I was supposed to be able to identify what I was looking at.

Where did this thought process come from? Why did I think this? Why do I still think this?

I wish I could pin point the turning point in my life, what I encountered that caused me to believe that any "abstract art" was new age nonsense that non-artists used to pass of as art. I feel like a jerk for revealing these thoughts right now.

But I know that I'm wrong. To a small extent, this thought process does apply to some people. However, it certainly doesn't apply to everyone or everything! I'd like to find a good art history book so I can educate myself.

I feel like a total phoney when I squat down low and take an angled photo of a random object. But sometimes I like the results. Sometimes the photo is really interesting and I quite enjoy looking at it. My eyes can travel around and around and I can find something to appreciate continuously. The tones are interesting and the colors are attractive. Why is this? It's just a random object!

Taking pictures of anything that interests me has helped though. I feel like I'm looking at the world differently everyday, even more significantly in the past few days as I've started snapping at anything that catches my eye. I've never taken angled photos until earlier this week. I'll see something I like and try taking it from different angles and tilting the camera to see if it enhances what I see. It's been working. Do I feel like a phoney still? A little bit. It'll take time to reprogram my thought process.

I named this blog 'win some, lose some' because I like some of the random photos I take more than others. Some are more interesting than others, and some feel more pretentious than others. Some of these photos I don't really "get", but I like them anyway.


California Day 5

So, to continue updating the details of my California vacation, here is our day spent at California Aventures! I had never been there before and I quite enjoyed myself. It was nice to ride some more classic type roller coasters. It wasn't nearly as crowded as as Disneyland, which was also nice. Pretty much the first order of the day was hopping on the Tower of Terror, or rather, getting our fast passes for it.

While we waited for our time slot we visited this animation type store/attraction. There was a big room where large projections of stills from classic Disney movies were plastered on the walls.
 There was also corresponding music playing. After a few minutes the music and images would change. It was a fun room.

Connected to it was a room featuring something called a zoatrope. I can hardly describe it, just know it was awesome.

You can kind of tell from this image that there are still figures and they're moving in one giant circle on a spinning platform. It starts to spin very quickly and then what appeared to be a strobe light turned on. This created the effect of a smooth running animation. So very cool. I wish I had the means to record it while we were there, but I'm guessing it's not as fantastic on video as it is in person.
The buildings in the park were really fun and detailed, kind of old and real. It made me feel like I was on the set of Roger Rabbit, which was nice. I had fun photographing them, more architecture practice, yay! I'd like to visit some old towns, I've really only seen modern places. I like fancy old buildings.

I had a pleasant surprise as we walked toward the Tower of Terror: what at first glance appeared to be the sky was seconds later revealed to be a fake sky painted on the side of a building and setup behind the fake downtown buildings.
This sort of thing wouldn't work very convincingly in Washington I don't think. I felt pretty silly once I realized the sky looked just a little too perfect, and then I looked up a little higher and saw it was fake! heh.

SO! The Tower of Terror. Aptly named. It was absolutely 100% terrifying. I think it's the highlight of the day for me. Very fun though, so definitely worth it. I bought the photo of us on the ride because it's just hilarious. I am screaming with all of my might while visibly squeezing Jake's hand and Andrew's arm. They are both laughing.

We spent the majority of the day on rides. Soarin' Over California was really awesome and I particularly loved the "smellovision" aspect! We also ate in the restaurant nearby, whose name currently escapes me. They had decent enough burgers. After that, it was oh so fabulously delicious amazing ice cream time. Oh gosh I love ice cream.
While eating our ice cream we sat and watched a parade that was going by. Super entertaining! It was hot outside and the ice cream was the perfect relaxing and enjoyment companion. I want this ice cream cone again right now. RIGHT NOW. Other than the ice cream and the tower, a fantastic part of the day was the Monsters Inc. ride. It was like being a part of the movie! Whoever designed the ride is a dream-maker and a genius.
I cranked my camera to ISO 1600 or something so I wouldn't ruin the ambience of the ride with a flash. I took a bunch of great photos like this one, but this is such a cute part of the movie so I chose this one. One part of the ride opened up to the room of doors everywhere. Breathtaking! It was just as fantastic and exciting as the first time I saw the scene in the movie.
Gleeful excitement! So much fun.

As the sun began to set, we mosied (past tense of mosey) over to the Grizzly Water something-or-other ride. We were unable to obtain fast passes earlier in the day, so we were prepared to wait in line for our fun water rafting adventure. A serendipitous thing happened though, a man intercepted us and handed us three fast passes for use at that moment, because he and his party no longer needed them.

There's me howling with pleasure!

Actually that's me imitating the bear in the background and Jake telling Andrew that he won't imitate the bear. What a phooey. Either way, it was awesome to receive those fast passes and hop right on the ride. We had fun co-passengers too, seeing as the rafts are 8 seaters.

We were sufficiently moistened. On the very last bend after the big drop a malicious wave rose up and hit Andrew in the face. It was the perfect end to the ride.
And what a beautiful ride it was. The sun was at the perfect setting time to bring out the really beautiful colors. I love this photo in particular.

We wandered through the rest of the park while the sun continued to set. It was time to explore the boardwalk portion of the park and we were rapidly approaching our fast past time slot for the California Screamin' roller coaster.

More fabulous photo opportunities were presenting themselves as the sun set lower and lower in the sky. I'm so glad that I was able to take advantage of the setting and take as many photos as I wanted. Maybe I don't look for these types of situations in Washington because I'm used to what I'm looking at, or maybe these situations aren't that prevalent here, but either way I felt extremely privileged.

This here is the Mickey Mouse ferris wheel. A fun spin on an old ride: some of the carriages move along track. We, of course, went for a moving carriage and it was kind of frightening. Fun though!

As for the California Screamin', it's probably one of the best roller coasters I've ever been on. It would have been nice to hop on it again but the line was far too long. There's only one loop, which made me happy because I don't like too many loops, and it goes very fast. I mostly like the fast turns and drops. This one had I think three or four drops. It was droptastic!

So we ended the day with a few romantic photos in front of the rides. It was a good day.


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