photo 111: assignment 8, hard light with detail

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092613creamerhardlight

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photos:
1) wakefield chair and our puppy finnegan (deaf and nearly blind and nearly 12)
2) finny and his bunny, see how finny’s tail uncurls when he sleeps? it also uncurls when he’s upset
3) my favorite creamer, though it has never held cream, usually maple syrup
4) experimenting with salt on a black mat board
5) i loved the shadows these wooden rabbits made, i used them for my shallow depth of field post as well

It has been some time since I have written about my photography class. Being without photos today, it seems like a good day to get back to it.

According to my instructor’s assignment sheet, alternative titles for the Hard Light with Detail assignment include “sunny light”, “directional light” or “undiffused light.”

My instructor included a specific requirement of ensuring there was good detail in both the shadows and the highlight. This is tricky, which I think is the point!

When you are shooting in bright light, it is both easy to have have light areas blown out and over exposed, and shadows underexposed. The goal is to get the exposure as close to perfect as possible, by bracketing and then making minimal corrections with the exposure brush (in Lightroom). Bracketing is trying a range of fstops.

The top photo is the one I turned in for a grade. But you can see in the other photo of my puppy, that the light has blown out the detail in the rug.

My instructor suggested shooting in the early and late hours of sun, with the sun at the side of the subject, and shooting from a low angle. The texture of the subject will be more dramatic. I’m not sure I’ve captured a lot of texture, but I love shadows, so I enjoyed this assignment.

I have 4 more assignments to cover…and then maybe I’ll try the assignments all over again, before I forget things like bracketing!

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photo 111: assignment 7, urban

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081713pacificrim

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photos:
1) westside books and vintage typewriters
2) lorax in the alley with a switchblade
3) backdoor pacific rim
4) lightpost behind ann arbor art center
5) lightpost near the lucky monkey tattoo shop

If you were asked to take a photograph that represents the word “urban”, what would you photograph? This is what my classmates and I were asked to do for our 7th assignment.

Living in a college town, we don’t find too much of what you might automatically think of as urban in our fair city. There isn’t a lot of…edginess here. We used to have funk, but we’re losing that too.

We do have homeless people and pan-handlers, who, come to think of it, would have been great subjects for an urban photo. But I’m not that bold and anyway, it seems disrespectful. I wouldn’t want to benefit from someone else’s suffering.

My classmates and I submitted photos of buildings, alleys, trash, a rusty lock around a chain link fence, a crane at a construction site for a new apartment building, kids skateboarding…

I wasn’t thrilled with my photos. It was February or March when this assignment was due; I didn’t feel like being outside for too long. And one guy in an alley saw me taking photos and followed me to talk with me. He was a little creepy, so I decided it was time to go home.

Do I sound like I’m making excuses?! Yes, I do, because I am.

Some of my classmates needed no excuses. They did a great job on the assignment. Wish I had their photos to share. One of my classmates took a beautiful photograph of Detroit’s Renaissance Center. I looked something like this, but his was a better shot.

Another took a great staged shot of a group of people in a bar with a bokeh effect on a string of lights in the background that looked like this and a little like the red lights in the last photos above.

I learned several things from my FAIL on this assignment:

• people who make a good effort, don’t need excuses.

• if you’re taking grand shots, there has to be a focus or an unusual angle that makes the shot interesting. I took many shots of old Ann Arbor buildings that I consider beautiful. But when I look at the photos, they aren’t interesting at all.

• people are always interesting, even if it’s just a person’s feet.

• animals are always interesting, even it it’s just an animal’s feet.

• the bokeh effect with lights is pretty cool to have in a background (not necessarily illustrated in the photo above).

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072813birdfeeder

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photo 111: assignment 6, unusual angle

Photo 111: assignment 6, unusual angle

photos:
1) a birds nest in the top door of my mother’s barn.
didn’t that male bird make it fancy for the ladies? i wonder if he was successful or if they all avoided him for being odd. or if his special lady friend slapped him upside the head and said, “why don’t you just put an electric sign on it that says ‘hey cats! there are tasty baby birds right here!’”
2) from under one of my mother’s many bird feeder’s. the slinky is to keep the squirrels out, and it works!
3) a blue birdhouse my dad painted so many years ago, through a knothole in the barn loft. so many reminders of my dad all over the place
4) little hedgehog feet, next to a toaster
5) grumpy, grumpy hedgehog, next to a toaster

Though I’m not sure I was successful at this assignment, I enjoyed it. Changing your angle can turn a mediocre scene into something interesting. But as demonstrated above, finding the right angle takes practice. I’m still learning.

My son says the birdfeeder photo above is not an unusual angle, since we normally view a birdfeeder from below. He’s right. But still, a shot from directly underneath an active bird feeder is unusual. Especially in the winter when you have to lie very still, on a beach towel, in the snow for some time before the birds will come to the feeder.

For my assignment, I turned in the bottom photo of Dandelion, even though it was terrible. So much out of focus. My classmates loved it. Haha. My instructor didn’t. (I posted my daughter’s superior photos of Dandelion in a previous post, hedgehog: real talk, and taken with a small Canon pocket camera.)

High angles, low angles, framing photos through things like branches, are a good way to try out unusual angles.

Here are examples from some amazing pros:
Elliott Erwitt, such a classic, and his dog photos are funny

Arno Rafael Minkkinen, really interesting use of bodies

Vernon Merritt , great photos of 1969 NYC

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photo 111: great depth of field

photos:
1) massimo vitali beach photo
2) helen levitt street photos (so love her photos)
3) john pfahl nature photos

I started writing about my photography class in past posts, and never finished, like so many projects in my life. Sigh. The class ended April. So I thought I would go back to those posts.

There were 12 assignments, I have written about 3 of them (I skipped assignment 3, panning motion, because my photos were so boring and terrible…):

photo 111: assignment 1, he is the eggman
photo 111: assignment 2, stop motion
photo 111: assignment 4, shallow depth of field, and not so shallow barbie

Great depth of field was not one of my favorite assignments, because it required photographing a scene with everything in the photo, from fore to rear, being in acceptable focus. I just couldn’t come up with a scene I liked…It was January in Michigan and everything was dull and grey. Plus, getting the light right was difficult. As I said, January, Michigan, and I didn’t have a tripod at the time.

I posted some of the photos I took for this assignment in one of my earliest posts, snow day. The photos above are much better examples. To be fair, these photographers have pretty amazing cameras and lenses…

When shooting for great depth of field, you need to use the smallest aperture (f-stop) your camera allows, usually f16 or f22. Small referring to opening in the lens, which is a greater number because it’s really a fraction 1/16 and 1/22. So f22 is a smaller aperture then f8. So confusing!

Since you’re using a small aperture, it’s best to photograph on a sunny day so you have enough light. You don’t want to use a shutter speed any slower than 1/60 because that will make your photo fuzzy, unless you use a tripod.

Or you can just point your iphone and click and be happy.

The only classmate photo for this assignment that I can remember was of a tree line across a field of snow. The trees were tall, slender and dark and in nice contrast to the white snow and light grey sky. At first, I thought it was a black and white photo, but no, January in Michigan.

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052313shallowtypewriter

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photos:
1) toys on my office windowsill
2) my old typewriter, I need to get a ribbon for it
3) wooden bunnies, i love they way the two pieces fit together, so simple, i also love the shadows, this was taken for a hard shadow assignment, but it also demonstrates shallow depth of field.

I took my camera outside at lunchtime last week to shoot this beautiful campus in its springtime glory. It took me more than a minute to remember all of the photography skills I had just learned in my photography class, which only ended a couple of weeks ago. Use it or lose it, I guess. So I will continue to review my photo 111 lessons here, with you, my unwilling pupil.

Shallow depth of field was an early assignment, which I felt like I had some success with. (I ended a sentence with a preposition right there. I know.) Shallow depth of field is used when you want an image where only a small part of the photo is in focus. See above.

The aperture is wide open for these shots, which is really counter intuitive isn’t it? You would think that opening up your lens means more light (yes) and more of the image in focus (no).

What I really like with shallow depth of field is that you can still get a good shot on a gray day without a flash or strobe or tripod, because your lens is wide open. Plus I like the way it can emphasize what you want to emphasize in a shot, and leave a little part of the story to unfold as the viewer makes it out.

One girl in my class took a beautiful close up shot of a blond Barbie doll’s face, chin titled sideways and slightly forward, blond pony tail high and sassy, not a hair out of place, lips slightly parted, a cheerful, vacuous look on her flawless face as her brilliant blue eyes stare off into space. The contrast of the blond barbie on the black background was really lovely…but then…there is something in the nearly black background… another Barbie…is she lying down? no wait! She is naked…and her hands and feet bound! What?! Naughty blond Barbie! Maybe that pretty little head is not filled with thoughts of shopping, the dream house and Ken after all. (Wait! I just realized those are the thoughts that fill MY head…well not Ken.)

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Another installment from my photography class. I only have 3 more classes and one more assignment, “Love”. Tricky.

I wasn’t so fond of my results on this Stop Motion assignment. Not for lack of a beautiful and cooperative subject…It was me, and very dark, grey winter days. (These were taken in January.)

The top one, the hair photo, was the one I turned in. You can see my dear niece was so willing to try anything in the cold snow! She’s 11 and has such a great spirit. Can you tell by her outfit? Neon, glitter Uggs, monster hat. In retrospect I’m wondering if eliminating one of the brightest colors would have improved the shots. It would have been something to try.

I also tried tossing some flowers up in the air…but I just couldn’t get the focus. And now I see I need to correct the color in the tree branches, which I now know how to do in Lightroom using the Lens Correction: Remove Chromatic Abberation tool.

One of the photos I liked the best from my classmates was a shot taken of a young woman in a swing…the shot was taken from the ground so she was framed against a blue sky (he went out on the right day). Her swing was twisting, she was laughing, her curly hair was flying…and he had specifically asked her to wear a red jacket. The red jacket against a bright blue sky was perfect. Hmmm. Another lesson from a classmate: If you’re going to direct a shot, then direct the shot!

Our next assignment was panning motion which was a giant fail for me. Maybe I’ll try to take more of those before posting.

eggsredtub

eggbook

photo 111: i am the eggman

photos
1) this is the one I matted and turned in: eggs in a tubtrugs bucket with old green onions peeled from the bottom of the vegetable drawer, winter, sunday morning light
2) outtake: egg on “radioactive: marie & pierre curie: a tale of love and fallout” by lauren redniss. redniss is a “graphic biolgrapher” and if you have not seen her books, you should. gorgeous.
3) outtake: eggs in bowl my sister-in-law made. do you think our windows need a little work…ugh.

In January I signed up for an introductory photography class at our local community college. Blogging was a motivator, but also, I was looking for something that would interest my teenage son, something that would get him off of his computer. He was interested, so we signed up together. Since he is only 15, and dyslexic, I wanted to take the class with him to make sure he wasn’t in over his head. Turns out he helps me more than I help him. (Turns out we also have to keep one empty seat between us in class so we don’t argue.)

We have an assignment every week that we edit, print and mount on matte board in class on Monday night. On Wednesday nights in addition to a technical lecture on our camera, or Lightroom, we have a critique. Our work is displayed anonymously and we have to vote on which photos we like the best—with the idea that clusters of votes will help illuminate key elements to a good photograph.

The matted photos are pinned to a bulletinboard/wall and the instructor puts a push pins above each photo that gets votes, one push pin per vote. Then we go in order, from the most push pins to the least talking about our process and getting critiqued.

I have had many weeks with no pins (votes), but two weeks ago my son and I tied for most votes. He gets votes almost every week and frequently gets the most votes. Once I told him it is even more exciting for me, as a mom, when he gets votes, than if I do. His response was, “No! You don’t get to claim credit for my work! No!”

For our egg assignment, we had to take a photo of an egg with the goal of getting a well-exposed, sharp image. I liked my image and technically it was good. But it received no votes from my classmates. My son put his egg on our pool table and had it in the foreground sharply focused and all of the colored pool balls in the background out of focus. He received many votes. One girl broke an egg in the snow and had a small LED flashlight illuminate it from underneath. There was a layer of snow between the egg and the light. The whole critique was really eye opening to me. Think creatively, or, take the egg out of the kitchen.

We only have 3 more weeks left and both my son and I are sad it’s coming to an end. As much as missing the photography class, I will miss the time with my son. He will get his driver’s license at the end of the summer, and it’s clear to me he can handle the classwork on his own. He is planning to take another photography class in the fall, without his mom. Of course, as a mom, I am proud of his growth toward independence, and I will let him know this, at the risk of him accusing me of claiming credit.