Monday, December 17, 2012

Week 40: Kansas City, Take 2

Amy and I went to Kansas City for the weekend as a little mini-vacation. We went to the City Market, a couple of museums, some good restaurants, and a blues bar. Every little trip is an opportunity for me to try and get some good photos. This weekend I tried to step out of my comfort zone some more and take more photos of people. It's still really hard for me. I'm still very tentative and shy and try to take photos without people noticing. However, every time I do it it does get easier. Here's hoping that trend continues.

These bridge towers are so random, but so interesting. I tried to take a photo in the evening, but there were some lights outside of our hotel that were washing out the window and turning everything pink. I was not happy. This was taken on a very foggy morning.

Just some birds at the market devouring some corn. 

I wish I had been a bit more brave for this photo. The guys working the grill were really energetic and friendly and I think I could have gotten a much better photo if I was willing to get a little closer and not be worried about them seeing me. 

I really like the depth in this photo. 

I love shooting transactions between people. There's a definite connection in this moment between the buyer and the seller. I love the way he's smiling and looking into the eyes of the person buying the spices. 

This woman was also incredibly friendly. I tried to get a lot more photos of her, but I was still feeling pretty shy at this point. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Week 39: Geminid Shower

Since I've lived in Kansas I've experienced two meteor showers. Each one I've tried to photograph by going out super late at night, when the meteors are at their peak, and each time I've utterly failed to get a photograph of one. The first meteor shower I barely saw any meteors and the second I didn't see a single one.

Last night was my third meteor shower, and I had high hopes for this one. Not only was it a new moon, but there were actually two meteor showers happening at once. Leading up to last night I had seen random shooting stars, so I figured my chances were good.

I left the house around 12:30 and drove half an hour to a place I knew would be relatively dark and had some interesting things to use as subjects. If there's one thing I've learned about star photography lately is that you need a subject other than the stars. It was a little terrifying being way out in the country, away from most civilization, in the middle of the night, while hearing coyotes in the not-so-distant distance.

My first ever official photo of a meteor!!! Not a lot of subject in this photo, but I was just so thrilled to capture a meteor in the shot. It was nice and bright. It was so exciting.

This one is a little darker than I would have liked. I would have liked the truck lit up a tad more, but the light painting that I tried didn't really work out. 

I like this one quite a bit. Not only did a get a meteor in the shot, but I also got the trail of an airplane. The horizon was kind of cloudy this night, so lights from the city were brighter than I would have wanted. Earlier in the evening I was trying to fight it, but at this point I started to embrace the extra light and use it to create silhouettes of the cars I was photographing. 

Even though it doesn't contain a meteor, this might be my favorite photo. I really like the silhouette of the truck and the way the city lights look like the setting sun.

Probably my favorite photo that includes a meteor. Not only is there a nice silhouette of the truck, but you can kind of see some detail of the front. 

No meteor, but I did get another airplane. 

All in all a very successful night. I was seeing between one and two meteors a minute, but it was still tricky to capture them in a photo. It was a bit cold, but considering it was the middle of December it was quite pleasant.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Week 38: Portraits

I've never really done portrait work before. I've taken random photos of friends and family, but nothing really official that was an entire photo shoot. This is unfortunate because I really do love taking photos of people. It's challenging for me because I'm fairly shy, but I always love the results.

Well, that all changed in the past week, things have kind of exploded. It all started when the director of our office asked me if I wanted to take senior pictures for her son. She knew I hadn't really done any portraits in the past, but he didn't want to make a big deal out of it and didn't want to go into a studio. I very nervously said sure and then proceeded to freak out a bit. I had no idea where to start, or what locations to use, or how to pose someone. I was scheduled to take his photos the week after thanksgiving.

While I was home in Madison for thanksgiving my aunt wanted me to take my cousin's senior pictures. It was a last minute thing and I figured it would give me some good practice. It boosted my confidence a lot and made me much more relaxed for my actual paying gig.

These are three of my favorite shots with my cousin. We took a lot of shots outside, but it was very cold and cloudy. We moved inside and there wasn't a ton of light, so I plopped her right next to the windows and doors and got some really nice shots with some really nice light.

These are my three favorite shots with Andre. It was certainly a different experience taking photos of a guy. It's easier to pose a girl and they seem to do things more naturally, but I think we got some really good shots. These don't necessarily look like senior picture shots, but I think that's why I like them.

These last two are of a co-worker of mine. She was looking for a new photo to give to her mom for christmas. These photos show the importance of lighting and going out when the lighting is good. I was worried because it had been cloudy all day, but the sun came out just when we needed it to.

Not a shot she's going to give her mom, but I love the background and the little bit of sun in the hair.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Week 37: No Trespassing

I decided that this week's theme was going to be 'No Trespassing', or more appropriately, how I learned to ignore no trespassing signs. While taking photos this week I learned a couple of things:
1 - A fence with a no trespassing sign really means, come in, there's something really cool inside.
2 - Dead ends often end with long since forgotten treasures.
3 - To find lots of really cool photo opportunities, you need to step outside your comfort zone and take some risks.

In a couple of weeks I'm going to be shooting my first senior pictures. I'm a tad terrified, mostly because I have no idea where to go and what to have him do. Today was an attempt to figure out that first part. I had a couple of ideas for locations, but in general I just started driving and keeping my eyes peeled for anything that might be interesting.

I found this first location while trying to figure out how to get to the top of the big KS sign in Manhattan. I've always wanted to see the sign up close because I was curious what it was made of. I started driving up this hill and saw a little turnoff with a gate and a no trespassing sign. I probably sat there for five minutes trying to gather up enough nerve to go in. Eventually I sucked it up and went exploring. And the below photo was what I was rewarded with.

There was just random furniture and appliances strewn about this clearing at the top of the hill. I especially liked this chair. There's something fascinating about a dilapidated chair sitting out in the middle of a grass field.

At this point I had to do some climbing. I was on part of the hill, but I guessed the KS sign was further up. There were some tricky sections, but eventually I came to the top of the hill and found some sort of radio tower. The fascinating part of the tower were these light-bulbs strung across the whole structure.

Then what do I find, more no trespassing signs. This one I decided to obey. 

I couldn't get a good picture of it, but I did eventually find the giant KS sign. If anyone was curious it's carved out of the rock on the side of the hill and painted white. Not as exciting as I had hoped.

After climbing down the hill I started driving into the country. After a couple of random turns I came across a dead end sign and decided to see what was at the end. Sure enough, another fence and another no trespassing sign. Not to be deterred, I climbed around the fence and set off to explore. I should note that every place I went today looked fairly abandoned, so I felt somewhat confident that I wasn't going to run into anyone.

After trudging through some forested areas I came across another clearing and an abandoned piece of farm equipment. I really love old abandoned equipment. The rust and the grease makes for some great color and contrast in photos. 

Driving again, I came across these culverts and liked the way they were stacked and the patterns they made. 

This location was incredible and I have to go back because I only explored a tiny bit of it. I was nervous going to this one. I spotted all of these abandoned cars and random equipment across a field, from the road. In the photo below you can kind of see my car in the lower right. I knew I would be very visible crossing the field, but decided it would be worth it.

The first thing I came across were a couple of semis with lots of random old toys, clothes, and any other trash you can think of. A lot of it was strewn across the ground and I half expected to find a dead body mixed in with everything. Note to self, if I ever need to dump a body, this is the place. 

Hanging out of one of the doors of the semi was this old rotting doll, partially crushed by a box. This is quite possible my favorite picture from the bunch. It took me a couple of tries to get the shot that I wanted. Originally I was trying to get its face in the shot, but it just wasn't working, and I actually like this angle much better. 

One of many abandoned vehicles left in this field. 

Wanted to add one more to this post that I took the day after writing this.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Week 36: Candid Strangers

I went to a wedding this past weekend in Michigan. I was hoping to get some good photos, but it just wasn't working. The area we were in wasn't great for photos and the weather was dreary and there were no leaves on the trees. Just not very good all around.

I decided I need to try something new. I've always wanted to do street photography and take candid photos of strangers. The only problem is, this terrifies me. I'm a pretty shy person, and I find it really hard to take photos of friends, let alone strangers. But I decided I needed to get over this fear and just do it. So, in the Flint airport on the way home, I decided to give it a shot.

I was still pretty cautious and mostly took photos of people I knew probably couldn't see me, but I still learned a ton. When I do landscape photography I've learned that every photo needs a subject. You can't just have a beautiful landscape and call that your subject. There has to be something else that draws you into the photo and then the landscape is what makes it beautiful. I'm realizing the same thing with street photography. The person you're taking the photo of isn't the subject, you need something more, an emotion, an interaction with another person...something (still trying to figure out what that something is).

When you take photos of your friends I think it's easy to get lazy. You treat them as your subject and people like the photos because they know the people. But show the photos to a stranger and they're probably not interesting at all. Taking photos of strangers forces you to take that extra step to make your photos interesting and tell a story. I think coming to that realization will make my photos much better in the future.

This was the ballsiest photo I took, he was sitting at a table right across from me and could have looked over at any second. It was kind of exhilarating. 

This lady just looks kind of bored. Something else is needed to make this photo interesting. 

I really liked the sun in this one and the color of her hair. Still not really a subject though. 

I think that this one is halfway to being a good photo. This guy is interacting with the bartender, but the guy seated at the bar is blocking her. I think if I was able to get her in the photo as well it would have been much more interesting. 

This is my favorite. This guy was pretty photogenic and I managed to catch him in a smile. I really love candid shots of smiling people. People usually look so miserable, especially in airports, that it's nice to see a smile every now and then. 

This is a random shot from the wedding I was at. The ceremony was outside, but the reception was held in this heated barn. Pretty nice.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Week 35: Meteor Shower

This weekend was the Orionid meteor shower. I was pretty excited for it and thought it would be a great opportunity to try and get some star photos with meteors streaking through. Back in August I was out in Colorado for another meteor shower and was pretty disappointed by the lack of meteors. I had high hopes for this one. It was supposed to peak between 4am and dawn on Sunday morning with meteors once every minute.

Bound and determined I got myself up and out of the house around 2:30. The shower was supposed to originate from Orion's belt, so I picked some places that would have a good view of Orion and some interesting scenery. I was out until about 4am and didn't see a single meteor, boo. But there were an incredible amount of stars out, so I figured I would take advantage. Here's what I came away with. Only four shots this week, but better than nothing and I'm pretty happy with the four shots.

 I started out at the prairie thinking that scenery would make a nice backdrop with the stars. I was wrong. The shots just weren't working. I got some good stars, but there was really no subject, just boring trees and land. Undeterred, I had an idea. I've taken some shots out at a random cemetery out in the country and thought I could get some good shots there. So I packed up and tried to find an unmarked cemetery, in the dark, at 3:30am. After driving past it 4 times, I finally found it.

This first photo is more for the creepiness factor. Nothing like hanging out in the middle of a cemetery, in the middle of the night, with a bloody Jesus. I liked the composition of this one, but would have preferred if that tree wasn't there on the right.

I was quite happy with how this turned out. The hard thing about night photography is trying to frame things when you can't really see anything through the viewfinder. Luckily I had my headlamp with me, so I was able to use that to light of the sign, get it all framed, then turn it off and take the photo. 

This is easily my favorite of the bunch. I love the framing and composition and the fact that I was able to get a hint of the disk of the Milky Way. Plus the church looks kind of castley, which gives the whole shot a very old European look. If I have the patience I might re-visit this location and use it for some time-lapse shots. Could be very cool.

This one has nothing to do with the previous shots, but it's one I took the weekend before and really liked. I really like HDR when it captures what you see in real life. This was an instance where I just couldn't get the depth and range of color in a single shot, the way I saw it with my eye. Taking three shots and combining them really allowed me to capture things the way I saw it. And it doesn't hurt that the colors were beautiful out at the prairie to begin with. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Week 34: Twin Cities

This past weekend I was in Minneapolis to run the Twin Cities Marathon. Unfortunately the one time I wish I had had my camera I didn't bring it with. That's always the way it goes. I would have liked to get more photos on Sunday after the race, but I was a bit tired and kind of ran out of time to do anything. So not many pictures this week, but better than nothing.

This first photo is from my friend Becky's apartment. Cheeky monkey.

Post-race beers chilling on the window-sill in the hotel.  Didn't work so well.

Nighttime view outside of the hotel window. 

Long-exposure shot from a bridge over the highway. I'm pretty sure we ran past that cathedral during the race. 

HDR shot outside of the hotel window. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Week 33: Reflections

I was excited about this theme this week. It was my first time in a while really taking a theme and working with it, instead of working my photos into a theme I determined after taking the shots. It was nice, in a way. Having a specific them forces you to look at things differently. You're not just looking for anything that could be a good photo, you're looking for specific things. It's somewhat limiting, but forces you to grow creatively. Unfortunately I found this week kind of a bust. I'm not really happy with any of the photos and I had a hard time finding things that I found interesting. Not sure if it was the theme, or if it was me. I also had a few ideas that I thought were going to be interesting that totally failed. I really wanted to try to take some photos of reflections in a camera lens, but they all just turned out bad. I don't think my problem was finding good sources of reflection, I think it was finding interesting subjects within those reflections. Finding subjects seems to be a continuous struggle for me.

This was a shot that at least forced me to move around a bit to get what I wanted. I took some other shots of a tree reflected in this water and it wasn't working. Then I decided to move around until I got the sun to nicely reflect. I do enjoy when I have an idea that I can actually execute.

Not thrilled with this photo. It's the center of a sign light. There was a lot of reflective chrome, but it didn't really reflect anything. I tried moving around to get something, but it was just kind of muddy.

I can't decide if I like this shot or not. I like the contrast and the texture caused by the wet pavement, but I don't find anything about it particularly interesting.

Not much to say about this one, kind of boring. Just a reflection of my legs in a glass door.

This one I kind of enjoy. It was another one that I knew exactly what I wanted and worked until I got it. This was shot through a window and I managed to get equal focus with what was reflecting in the window and what was inside the building. I really love the composition and how it's really hard to tell exactly what you're looking at. The inside and the outside images blend really nicely together.

There was just something about the texture of this light, with some condensation under it, that I liked. 

This was one of the few water reflection shots that I liked. It sort of looks like the tree has been partially erased.

Not quite sure how I feel about this one. Again, I think it would be better if I could find something more interesting reflected in the mirror.