Monday, December 26, 2011

Week 12: Misc

Since I was traveling for the holidays, and would be taking photos anyway, I decided to skip the theme this week and just post seven of the pictures I took over the week.

Long exposure shot of some piano playing. I'm a big fan of long exposures in general.
I knew I said no cat shots on this blog, but this isn't one of my cats, so it's acceptable. I put a flash at the top of the stairs and just started shooting to see what I would get. Then the cat decided to pop her head into the frame. 
Trying to look distinguished while wearing my new favorite, ridiculous looking, hat. It really is a ridiculous hat, but I love it. 
I had my friend Gabe sit down in a chair while I had a flash and an umbrella set up. This was him trying to make a serious face after laughing too hard. I never really get a chance to shoot portraits of anyone else, so it was fun to get someone else in front of the camera. 
We were in Madison a week before Christmas for Amy's graduation. This is just a shot at the Kohl Center. 
Amy's brother lined these guys up with a note that says, "We want to eat Amy's brains", you see, because she's so smart. It's important to note that Amy's brother is 38. 
A final shot with Amy and her dad, both doctors. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Week 11: Underneath

This week's theme was pretty straight-forward, and I felt a little sapped of creativity from the previous couple of weeks, so I took it fairly literal.

This first photo is the underside of our bathtub faucet.

The underside of our bathroom sink had some pretty neat patterns and the light from the bathroom was illuminating it from the back-side.
I thought it would be kind of neat to get a shot looking right up into this light fixture. It took me a few attempts to get the correct exposure I was looking for. I wanted just enough light to show off the ceramic fixtures, but give a sense of floating lights. 
I liked the geometry and lines in this shot. A tripod is so often a workhorse of photography and it rarely, if ever, gets to be the star of the show.
The bottom of my shoes are kind of gross when you get really close.
This is the bottom of a glass coke bottle. I really loved the texture on the bottom.
Again, I liked the geometry of this photo. For this shot I put an athletic cone right over my lens and shot into white tileboard, lit with a flash.
So, nothing too exciting this week, but that's not the point.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Week 10: Vegetables

When I found out that this week's theme was vegetables, I thought, great, for once I don't have to think about the theme a lot and I can just take some macro shots of vegetables. Easy. For the first couple of days I take some photos of seeds and vegetables, I even took a picture of pizza because it's now considered a vegetable, clever. Most of these shots were decent, if uninspired, but I was okay with that.

Then on Tuesday I notice a Mr. Potato Head, that sits in one of our offices at work, and I figure that I can pose him and take a nice classy portrait as one of my photos. As I think about the idea further I want to take more than just one photo, but it would look weird, thematically, to have a couple of pictures of Mr. Potato Head and then some other random photos of vegetables.

So I get the crazy idea to tell the story of Mr. Potato Head, in seven photos. I want the photos to tell the story so I'll try and give just a brief description of each photo. So without further ado, here is 'The Dangers of Drugs: with Mr. Potato Head'.

Mr. Potato Head had always been a pretty stand-up little guy, until the day he accepted coke from his friend Mr. Squiggly Arm.
Mr. Potato Head quickly becomes an addict.
Before he knows it, he's strung out, sleeping on a piece of cardboard in a crack house, and out of coke.
Mr. Potato Head gets the idea to steal some coke from the evil drug dealer Mr. Mustache, while he's sleeping.
The evil Mr. Mustache is angry that someone stole his coke, and he wants blood.
Things aren't looking so good for Mr. Potato Head.
Oh sweet muppets in space! This is what happens when you steal drugs from a potato named Mr. Mustache.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Week 9: Spirit

It's hard to believe I've been doing this for 9 weeks already. This project has been invaluable so far. My guess is that I would have barely touched my camera in the past 9 weeks, if not for this, and I think about how much I'm learning each week. It really is an incredible experience.

With all of that said, this was an incredibly challenging week. I had a really tough time with the theme and had to try and take photos while traveling for the holidays. I hit a frustrating creative block that was tough to crawl out of. I think I got some alright shots, but in general I was disappointed. It goes to show how my expectations have changed from the start of this project. The original goal was to just take a photo every day, and now I want every photo to be amazing. I have to try and keep the original goal in mind. Alright, on to the pictures.

Took the spirit theme quite literally for this one. I have a flash sitting on the table behind the bottles and I'm shooting through a bottle of Woodford Reserve and Bulleit Bourbon. Originally I shot it with just one bottle, but the color and light are much more dynamic using 2 bottles. I also really enjoyed the lens flares coming off of the sides of the bottle.
After that last shot I couldn't think of anything. I hadn't taken enough pictures earlier in the week and I was starting to feel the pressure of not having any ideas and running out of time. I decided to go back to smoke photography and see what I could get. I tried adding a second incense stick into the mix to make more interesting smoke, but that didn't really do anything, and I already did smoke last week. That's when I noticed the detail in the end of one of the sticks. If you look closely you can see the little strands running through the center, that I assume are where the actual incense smell comes from.
More playing around with smoke. I was hoping the smoke would be thicker in the glass, but it does give a nice kind of spirit effect the way it is. 
Finally, I got a picture that I liked. It took a lot of different tries and a lot of different ideas, but this one matched what I had in my head. I wanted to create a ghost-like image and I actually creeped myself out when I saw this one. I purposefully grained it up a bit to give that old horror kind of feeling.
This is the last remains of our old thermostat. Rest in peace little guy.
The spirit of compost. Doesn't look nearly as disgusting after it's been sitting in the machine for a while.
This is pilot for our furnace. It was hard to get a good shot through the grate, but I really liked the glowing end combined with blue flames. I believe this is about a 15 second long exposure.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Week 8: Romance

This week's theme is romance, which I decided to be pretty loose with. The week started off pretty strong, but then got more difficult with traveling and the holidays.

The first version of this photo was just a shot of a candle flame. It was pretty boring, so I decided to experiment with blowing on the flame and doing a long exposure. I like how you can see all of the different wisps of the flame as well as the wick in the center.

This photo actually came out of another idea failure I had. I wanted to do some droplet photography in a wine glass, but it just wasn't working out at all. As a last ditch effort to make the drops more interesting I tried to drop some food coloring in the glass, it was incredible the designs it made. I wasn't prepared, so I washed the glass out, lit it all differently and got what you see below. I tried different colors and adding multiple drops, but there's something pleasing about the simplicity of the single drop of food coloring.
I've been wanting to experiment with smoke photography for a while now and this seemed like a good opportunity. Amy and I went down to the Asian market to buy some incense, that looked like it had been on the shelf for many years, and off I went. Smoke photography can be really interesting because you never know how the air currents are going to effect the smoke. I had to clear all the smoke out between pictures and then hold my breath so I wouldn't blow the smoke around. I lit the smoke with a snooted flash, so that only the smoke was illuminated, and then inverted the image to make the smoke stand out more.
This is a photo of my sister's dog Anya, taken at Thanksgiving. She just got a new enormous bone and it was love at first sight.
Another Thanksgiving shot. This is the bottom of a candle that's filled with red oil. When the candle is lit it casts a really cool light down onto the table.
My sister and my nephew James.
My mom and my nephew James. He gets a lot of love on the holidays.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Week 7: Body Parts

This week's theme proved more challenging than I would have thought. What's so hard? Take pictures of random body parts and you're done. The problem is that as this project goes on, I find myself wanting all of the pictures to be great, or something I'm proud of, or something that has meaning. And that was never the intention of this project, it was purely to get me taking more pictures, and part of the point is that a lot of them will suck. This is one of those good problems to have. It means I'm starting to grow more and challenge myself more, both good things. Now lets see if the work follows suit.

One thing I noticed from this week is that my style is still all over the place. I think that will come with time, but for now I'm stuck between wanting to make really goofy photos and more artsy photos. Now I just need to figure out how to do both.

I found this first photo pretty interesting. Amy and I were out apple picking and I decided to try and block out the sun with my thumb. The way the sun is flaring on the lens created some really cool shapes.

I figured macro photography is a pretty good bet for body parts. This photo is of my fingerprint. It's really interesting to see how deep the grooves appear. Skin, in general, is really fascinating up close.
Alright, I kind of phoned this one in. I was trying to think of more ideas when it occurred to me that I didn't just have to take pictures of human body parts. So I think a little more outside the box and what does it get me? A fairly bland picture of the head and neck of a guitar. If I had to say something good about it, I would say I got the parts in focus that I wanted in focus, and the lighting was pretty nice. The amount of time I put into getting this picture should have yielded something better.
I've wanted to play around with flash photography on skin for a while now. To soften the light I'm shooting through a white umbrella. I really love how the soft light creates nice satiny shadows. Skin has so much texture and bumps that it creates amazing light paths when you get the light bouncing around at the right angle. After all of that is said though, my favorite part of this photo is the crispness and illumination of the beard.
I had this idea in my head from the beginning. I wanted to create a whole series of giant body parts and little me's. I decided to stop after one, but I had a lot of fun with this. It was a lot of work to try and match the lighting and backgrounds, but I think it turned out alright. It was fun being my own model and trying to be angry and an imaginary giant hand. I went through at least 10 faces before I found the one that I liked.
Amy has lots of scars on her body. Most of them from cats, bike accidents, and frisbee. Here are two of the better ones. I think the one on the elbow is from an RV mirror (of course while riding a bike).
Finally, I didn't have to be my own model. Man, it's much easier shooting someone else when you can actually compose the shot, move them around, tell them what to do. When I try and make myself do all that, I just end up talking back way too much. This was shot with the umbrella directly behind, shooting into the camera, hence the little lens flare. Again, I love the little highlights that skin gives, mixed in with shadow.
And after posting all of these photos I find out that, in the large version of the photos, the blog's displayer doesn't like anything that's pure black, so it makes it kind of pixelated. It looks fine in the original file. Oh well.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Week 6: HDR

This week's theme was supposed to be sleep, but after a week of tired, I wasn't much in the mood. So I took this chance to do something that's always intrigued me, HDR. HDR stands for high dynamic range imaging and basically allows you to capture both the lights and the darks in a scene that has a lot of contrast. It does this by taking multiple exposures of an image and combining them into one, to capture the full dynamic range. HDR photography is fairly controversial, some people think it brings photos to life while others think it looks cheap and overdone. I feel like if you do it well it can look amazing, but there's a fine line between amazing, and gaudy. These were my attempts to try not to be gaudy.

Amy and I went for a run out on the prairie last weekend and when we passed this tractor I knew I wanted to take a picture of it. Something that always seems to work well for HDR is old farm machinery. The dirtier the better. Usually it's best to have a tripod for HDR, but I didn't have one, so I just set the camera to fire off 3 photos in a row. I think this could have been better if I had a tripod to get some more exposures, but I was happy with it.
To give you an idea of what HDR can do, here's a normal exposure of the same tractor. Quite a big difference. Kind of makes me not want to shoot non-HDR again.
This one had some nice color and reflections in the water as well as a somewhat interesting subject in the three tunnels. Amy and I went walking and I took a ton of photos that I hoped would make good HDR. After we got back I found out that if your photo is boring, HDR does not make it interesting, and even if you have an interesting photo, HDR may do nothing for it. Walking around for an hour and taking 100 pictures, I think I used 3 of them for this week's post.
I kind of liked this one and tried to move around to find the best angle that I wanted. Again, farm equipment makes for decent HDR.
HDR works well with light/dark contrast as well as color contrast. I wanted to get down low for this shot and shoot really wide to give the sense that the bus is looming over me.
Finally, I got an HDR that I really like. This is under the steps of the old stadium on campus. This is what HDR is designed for. An area that's fairly old, dark, and dirty. I was so happy when I processed this one and saw the results. I tried to hold back on the settings, so that the photo didn't cross the line into unbelievable. HDR just makes everything pop so much more.
Again as a comparison, here's the normally exposed single image.
Another one under the stairs, this one looks out onto the football field. This sort of picture would be impossible without HDR, or a flash setup. The area under the stairs is so dark, and the area outside is extremely bright. If you took one image you would either have a completely black interior, or a completely blown out exterior.
This one is outside of the stadium. This one starts to get a little more unrealistic, but I like the mood that it conveys.
Overall a good theme, since it forced me to develop a technique that I didn't previously have. It was frustrating at first, especially since it rained the first 2 days I was supposed to take pictures, but I made it work.