Week 11 & 12 - Negative Space and Macro

Another double header?!?! I know how lucky are you guys!?! So unlike the previous two challenges where I didn't particularly like the photos or the challenge this time I actually really liked both challenges.  I just ran out of time/weather for the Negative Space photo to get it in on time. Without further ado, or excuses let's get into the photos.

Negative Space

Negative Space is a great compositional tool.  It simplifies the photo down to just your subject.  Simple photos are fantastic, if you have all the details down.  You don't have anything to hide behind.  You MUST have everything perfect.  As a result they can be extremely powerful because of that simplicity and perfection.

I had originally thought about taking a headshot of the boy where he would be looking off camera and you would see nothing but sky behind him.  The weather and work didn't really work out for me last week.

Then something nice happened.  It started to get sunny and warm in Seattle for a few brief days along with all of the cherry trees blossoming.  There's a couple on my block that are particularly beautiful.  I decided to wait until the afternoon light hit the trees just right so the blossoms would be backlit nicely.  Finally on Tuesday afternoon the weather, light, and work aligned perfectly so I could go run across the street and take a few shots.

I took several and was pleased with what I got.

The first two were nice.  I finally nailed it with the third one. I quickly edited the photos and threw up my selection on Instagram.

Macro

With that out of the way I proceeded to work on macro photography. This was a great technical challenge.  You need to be able to magnify your subject and still control for focus and depth of field.  I was struggling for good subjects and some of the technical challenges.  With the close focusing of macro photography you need to make sure that you have enough depth of field so that you can see your subject clearly.  I asked a friend of mine Joanne, who takes great macro shots, for some advice.  I asked her what made for good shots and she replied "Insects, fruit and vegetables, water droplets, leaves. Don't go too low on the F-Stop (aperture)."  (You should check out her photography here https://jcvpics.shootproof.com

I don't have a macro lens.  I have extension tubes. These are plastic tubes that mount between your lens and camera.  They allow you to take macro photos by moving the front element of your lens farther forward from the sensor in your camera thus allowing you to focus much closer to the lens and allowing for greater magnification.  I had gotten a set several years ago and hadn't used them in some time.

With that i mind I went about shooting all kinds of things around the house.  I tried taking a photo of the boy's eye.  He couldn't sit still enough for me to take a non blurry photo.  I tried the same kind of shot with the dog, he looked up at me as if to say, "Human I love you but what are you doing interrupting my sleep?" I then took a few test shots of a Christmas cactus in my office.  I liked what I had since the green leaves were nicely backlit and the leaves looked almost transparent.  I then got a spray bottle and sprayed some water on the leaves.  

 

I went out in the back yard and took some photos of the grass (boring), the pavers in the side yard (bleach), and the fish and snail that we have (not in focus).  I kept pondering what to shoot.  Finally on Friday afternoon I noticed that the afternoon light was nice.  There are these plants, I think they're weeds, that are starting to encroach upon our yard from the neighbors.  I thought they might look kind of cool in a macro shot.

While I really like the soft greens and the texture of the second plant I couldn't not share the one of the Christmas Cactus.  My photo editor, my lovely wife, agreed.

It was a fun technical challenge. I'm already 25% of my way through this year's challenge.  Last time I only got through week 17.  This year I'm feeling much more confident that I'll get through it.  Plus I'm enjoying the process a lot more.  I know I'm liking the photos I'm making better.  I'm glad I started this challenge again.

Week 9 & 10 - Forsake and Selective Color

Wait a second, where was last week's post?

This week you get not one but two posts in one!  I know, very exciting.  You may be asking yourself, isn't; this supposed to be a weekly blog?  You're working on a weekly project and you're supposed to be putting up a post per week.  What happened? Simply put I hated my photos from the first week, Forsaken, and did NOT like the second week's subject of Selective Color.  Read on for details.

Forsaken

Last week the theme was Forsaken.  My idea was to go take some photos of a house or two that has been abandoned.  As many of you know, the Seattle housing market is crazy busy right now. As such the number of abandoned houses are few and disappearing as they are either torn down for new housing stock, typically townhouses, or are remodeled.  My idea was to go and capture one before this happens.

My lovely wife knew of a house nearby that was for sale and clearly had been left to fend for itself.  It is a mid-century modern house the overlooks Lake Washington.  You could tell that it was a great house when it was in it's prime.  It's a shame to see it in such disrepair.   Still it was a good subject.  I went over in the evening.  I wanted to capture the house in the golden hour.  That way it would look it's best in the fading light of the day.  I took about 40 shots and didn't like most of them.  This is not unusual.  Normally though I find a few that I think are okay and will share them.  The problem is that I didn't really capture how truly abandoned it was. I got two shots that were okay.  Both of them were detail photos.

I wasn't pleased with my photos.  Unfortunately I didn't really have time to go out and do a another shoot. That weekend we went to Great Wolf Lodge and while fun, I didn't really have time to do another shoot.  I was too frustrated with my photos and needed some time to ignore them and then come back to them.

Looking at them I'm still not super pleased.  I do kind of like the two that I posted above.  I ended up sharing this one for my photo of the week. I may revisit the subject in a future theme as an attempt to redeem my meager attempt at photographing the house.

Selective Color

This week's theme is selective color.  What's that you ask?  Typically it's a black and white photo with a splash of color on one subject or only a single color in the photo.  They were very popular, and cliche, when digital photography and image editing really took off.  I really, really, hate them.  I understand what they're attempting to accomplish.  It's a way of clearly separating your subject from the background.  Typically this is done with light and shadow, or using a big aperture so the background is out of focus, or using the natural colors in the scene. With your subject standing out from the background it makes your photo much stronger.

I decided, for my attempt for "selective color" that I would head over to... Kubota Gardens.  There are two bridges there that are bright bright red and surrounded by all kinds of luscious green bushes. It wouldn't be exactly selective color, it would be my version of it.

Sunday was a lovely sunny day and into the 60's (it's supposed to be in the 70's on Monday).  I decided to take my Fuji with me this time.  Typically I use my Nikon and it's bevy of lenses when I do landscape.  I normally use my Fuji for street/candid photos.  I thought it would be fun to see how it worked as a landscape camera.  Plus it's a lot smaller and lighter than my usual backpack filled with gear.

Unsurprisingly the park was busy Sunday afternoon.  It was nice to see families and various groups of people enjoying the park.  It's really beautiful and a nice quiet spot in the city, obviously I'm a bit of a fan. I headed straight for the first and larger of the two bridges, Heart Bridge. I set up the camera on the tripod and took a variety of exposures.

 

 

Heart Bridge, a traditional red bridge similar to one on Mr. Kubota’s home island.

I've take this shot before and while this one was okay it wasn't better than anything I had take before.  Additionally I really wanted there to be only two colors, green and red.  I wanted to really emphasize the red of the bridge.  While nice this photo didn't really do it.

I then headed over to the other red bridge, Moon Bridge.  Now I've taken several shots of this bridge before.   I wanted to do something different this week.

 Moon Bridge from the usual angle, though normally not in black and white.

Moon Bridge from the usual angle, though normally not in black and white.

I wanted to do something different this week.  I walked around the area to try and see if there was a different angle or view of the bridge, especially if there was one with more green bushes. From the backside of the bridge I found my shot.  I set up my camera and took my shot.  I was quite pleased with it.

Not the typical shot of Moon Bridge.

With this shot of the bridge I really tried to emphasize the greenery and have the bridge really jump out in the photo.  The funny thing about this week while I hated the theme I ended up with a photo that I normally wouldn't have tried to get.  No matter how well you think you know your subject there's always something different to try.  It doesn't always work out and sometimes it does.

Week 8 - Zoom Bursts

This week's theme was technique based.  Zoom Bursts are where you take a long exposure shot with a zoom lens and then zoom out during that exposure to create light trails in your photo.  While you could do this with photoshop this is an in camera technique. I wasn't sure how to do this as I was sure there were details that I needed to know.  I went off to google and came across this writeup on how to do it.  I've gone to Digital Photography School before.  They're a great resource for self taught photographers like myself.  If I have a question on how to do something they generally have good clear write-ups on the subject.

To capture a good zoom burst photo you need to have a long exposure, say 25-30 seconds, and something that would look good with light trails.  Typically this is a building or cityscape at night. I thought about the usual spots to go take a long exposure of the City at Night.  I had already taken photos from Beacon Hill.

DSC_0763.jpg

I wanted to go somewhere else last night.  I decided to go to Kerry Park.  It has a great view of Queen Anne and Downtown Seattle.  The only issue was that it's been SNOWING in Seattle.  This is not a common occurrence, normally it's mid-40's and drizzly. I was not looking forward to how cold it was going to be.  I bundle up and headed off after we finished the bedtime routine for The Boy.

I got to the park and selected my spot to shoot from. Fortunately the clouds were low last night and were reflecting back really lovely light from the City.  I tried various options for the shot.  I tried zoom faster and slower and zooming more and less.  I came down to two different options.

Both photos have their merits.  Option One is a bit more abstract and futuristic.  You get a better sense of the zooming light trails from the buildings.  Option Two though the buildings are sharper and the Space Needle is clearly the focus of the shot.  I wasn't sure which one to submit this week so I asked my excellent photo editor.

As you can see I went with Option Two.  We both liked how you could see the Space Needle better.

Now, I wasn't going to let a good opportunity to take a normal cityscape shot of the city pass me up.  So I took a couple of different shots at various focal lengths as well using traditional techniques.

The city at night during winter.

The one I liked the most I took using my 85mm lens.  I got this lens a couple of years ago from The Wife.  It's such a great lens.  I can't get over how sharp this photo is.  I don't use it that much since it's too long to use inside where I take a lot of photos of the boy and the dog.  I really need to find more reasons to take it out of the bag and use.

Next week's theme is "Forsaken."  Time to go look for some abandoned buildings.

Week 7 - Composition: Fill the Frame

This week's assignment was fairly straight forward. Take a picture of something and have nothing else in the frame.  I wasn't sure what to shoot this week at first.  I figured I would get some shots of the dog or the boy.  Early in the week I took a couple of photos of the dog.  I tried to take a couple of the boy but he had a case of the croup and then just wasn't in the mood to sit for another of Daddy's photos later in the week once he got better.

I hadn't looked at my photos of the dog and I wanted to try a couple of other things.  My lovely wife took full advantage of the day after Valentine's Day sales and got some really nice roses for more than half off.  I thought that might look nice in some nice window light.  They ended up nice but boring.

Pretty flowers, yet boring flowers.

I was going through the photos of the dog I had taken earlier.  Just as I was editing my favorite of them, a headshot. My wife walked in and saw it and, almost, shouted "He's so cute! I love that photo of him!'  She STRONGLY suggested that should be the photo of the week.  Who am I to disagree?  The only question was color or black and white.

While I personally loved the black and white more I went with the color based on my photo editor's (the wife) strong suggestion.

You can see the posting on Instagram below.

Once I posted the photo in the Facebook Group I'm glad I took my wife's suggestion on which photo to choose. There were several photos of close ups of flowers that were nice though boring.  There were a several that posted photos of their pets that focus on just having the face or the eyes of their pet none were quite like mine.  I was glad that I had something a little more unique.

Next week is Zoom Bursts.  It looks like a fun technique.  I found a good tutorial here. I think I'll head to Kerry Park and see if I can't make something cool.

Week 6 - Vision: Alternating Rhythm

Another week another series of black and white photos.  The theme this week is Alternating Rhythm.  I had originally thought that I would go downtown and take some abstract photos of some of the skyscrapers.  I wanted to do it during a sunny day and that just isn't on the forecast any time soon.  I still have the pile of instant photos from last week's challenge.  I then thought it would be fun to go back to Kubota and reshoot some of my Instax photos on my digital camera. I could not only get some great shots for this week's theme I could also do a little comparison with last week's photo.

I'll start with the photo that inspired this week's photo shoot.

This week's inspiration.

Like previous weeks I had a clear vision of what I wanted to shoot.  I wanted to reshoot this photo as well as 3 other locations in the park, plus a few more if I had time. Since I was doing this on my lunch break I wouldn't have a lot of time.

As I was setting up my tripod two construction workers were heading back to work stopped to chat briefly.  They wanted to know what I was shooting.  I responded that I was going to take a shot of the trees in black and white against the clouds and that it should look cool, though you never know if it's going to turn out.  They were amazed that I could see something like those trees and be able to come up with something artistic like that.  I just said thanks and that it wasn't a lot of natural talent, rather it was due to a lot of hard work over the years.

While I wasn't sure what the focal length of my Instax Wide camera is I did take the instant prints along with me that I was trying to mimic so I could get similar framing.  I set my camera to F8 and fired off my shot.  I was quite please with what I got.

The digital version of my inspiration.

I love both of these photos for very different reasons.  The Instant version has soft focus not to mention that there appears to be a little camera blur.  This softness adds to the photos beauty.  I love the digital version because the trees are totally sharp and crisp against the soft billowy background of the clouds. The same subject in two very different photos, both lovely.

I then moved on to one of the ponds.  There was a lovely footbridge that I bought would make some nice patterns of light and dark on the smooth water of the pond. When I took the photo using my instant camera last week the photo came out too dark and the composition wasn't quite what I wanted.  This week the digital one came out closer to what I had in mind originally.

I then moved on to my biggest challenge.  There is a thick wood at Kubota. That my lovely wife calls "The Fairy Tale Forest." (It's actual name is Ferra Ferra Forest, originally a nursery planting of Threadleaf Cypress.)  Both she and I have tired in vain to photograph the forest showing just how amazing it is.  I've tried different lens combinations and different times of the day to no avail.  Today I thought that there might be a photo to be made with the pattern of how the trees are laid out with the path winding through them.

As you can see The Fairy Tale Forest is pretty great.  While I'm really pleased with how this turned out (I may print it out later) it doesn't quite fit the theme of Alternating Rhythm.  Still, I'm glad I finally was able to get a good shot of the woods, though I highly recommend that you go see it in person.

Finally, just for fun I thought I might get a shot of Moon Bridge. Last week I got a pretty good shot of the bridge that was nicely framed.  I took the shot from an overlook spot above Moon Bridge.  The bridge is a vibrant bright red color set against the grey stone and green bushes.  It makes for a striking subject.  There's also a lot of nice light there and a lot of great texture which would translate well into a black and white photo.

What photo did I submit this week? It came down to my first photo of the trees and the photo of the pond.  Those both best represented the theme of alternating rhythm.  However, the trees was just a much better photo.

It was a lot of fun this week to shoot in black and white again.  Given that there are so many wonderful colors at Kubota I'm not sure many would choose to do an entire shoot in only black and white.  It was fun to do.  I was able to go and do this shoot in the span of about 30 minutes during my lunch break.  I had a clear idea of what I wanted to shoot and how I was going to shoot it.  

Unlike my previous attempt at a 52 week project I feel much more confident in my vision of what I want to create as well as my ability to create those photos.  It's a nice feeling to have.  It won't be like this all the time and there will be times where I know what I want and I think I know how to do it only to fail.  I'm okay with that.  I'll learn from that and move on, hopefully doing a much better job next time. I'm probably still in the honeymoon phase of this challenge, since I'm only 6 weeks into it.  Still, It feels good and I'm enjoying it.

Week 5 Photographers Choice - Black And White Instax

Often having constrains provides the opportunity for greater creative achievement than having limitless freedom.  The challenge this week provided no constraints.  I could do whatever I wanted.  I decided to try and provide some limits of my own.  Last Christmas I got a Fuji Instax Wide camera.  I love the big instant photos it produces and I love the vibrant colors of those prints.  Recently Fuji announced a black and white version of their film.  I got a packet of the black and white film for Christmas.  I took a couple of test shots and LOVED the tones it produces.

Test shot of Sammie eating dinner.

I went online and bought several more packages of the new film.  I knew that I was going to use this new film for this weeks challenge.  I had the opportunity Saturday afternoon to go head over to  Kubota Gardens (it's a favorite location of mine for obvious reasons). I thought today would be a really great challenge.  Can I capture the beauty of the gardens on a dreary and drizzly day on instant black and white film?

As I started shooting I realized that it was dark, really dark.  This film does best on a brightly lit sunny day.  Today was not that day.  To make sure that my subject was going to standout from the background either the subject was going to have to be light and the background bright or vice versa. Many of the photos just came out way too dark and you couldn't tell what it was a photo of.  For the ones that did work they were magical.

The thing about instant film unlike regular film, let alone digital, is that they are one time event.  Never will another photo like it be taken.  There's only one of them.  Not only are they once they are a physical thing.  You can hold them in your hand.  The lament with digital is that while we are able tot take more photos more easily they mostly end up living in our hard drives never to be printed out.  Instant photos are only physical the challenge is how to share them digitally.

I did some research on how to digitize the photos.  I found a good blog post on how to scan them using a scanner.  While I have a printer/scanner that would do a decent job I opted not to go down that path.  I wanted to show that these were physical objects in the real world.  Since I have a camera, tripod, and a diffuser I opted to use those.

My film "scanning" setup.

Admittedly there were still some reflections and uneven light with this setup. I think overall it worked out since this week I've decided to embrace the limitations of this format.

It was a fun week and a fun challenge.  Sadly there were some photos that didn't translate well to being digitized and look much better in person.  I'm okay with that though.  It's a fun format to play around with and when you can figure out what you're doing and you get lucky you can make some great photos.

Next week's theme is Vision: Alternating Rhythm : Alternate patterns of light to bring depth and rhythm to the photograph. I'll have to see what the weather report looks like next week.  Maybe I can go downtown and play around with the lights and shadows and the buildings.  We'll see.

 

Week 4 Quiet Moment - I realize I'm never going to be a great landscape photographer, a tweaked back, and a failed attempt.

So this past week was a bit of a dud yet I'm pleased with what I ended up with.  What happened? I'll first start with what I wanted to shoot this week.  I wanted to take a photo of Mount Rainier from Seward Park at sunrise. Something like this:

Except at sunrise and with a better camera than an iPhone.  I was thinking long exposure as well so the lake would be smoothed out.  Unfortunately the weather was not cooperative last week.  There was a brief window of a sliver of a possibility of some color on Wednesday morning. I decided that I would set my alarm for a little early and that I could easily zip over to Seward Park and grab the shot and head back in time for my daily 8:30 am meeting (the joys of working from home).

Come Wednesday morning... I slept in.  I heard the rain and thought never mind.  It's not worth getting up and going out in the rain.  In that moment I realized I will never become a great landscape photographer because that requires early mornings and a willingness to go out in really crummy weather.  Can I improve on this? Sure. However,  I'm okay with being a mediocre landscape photographer if that means I can sleep in and stay out of really crummy weather. My lovely wife finally goaded me in to going to at least try to getting a shot.  I grabbed my back pack and went out the door.  I then tweaked my back as I SET DOWN MY BAG IN THE BACK OF THE CAR.  Yeah, I'm definitely in my 40's now.  My back hurt, a lot (fortunately my back was much better the next day with some Aleve and rest).  I knew the good light was fading and I was running out of time.  I persevered.  I drove over to Seward Park.  By the time I got there not only was the good light gone, what little there was, Mount Rainier was totally blocked by clouds.  There was no shot to be had.  I got back in the car and headed home to take some Aleve and to hope on a conference call.

I was bummed out.  I wasn't sure what else I was going to do.  I thought about maybe taking a photo of the dog snoozing on the couch.  This would be an easy shot to get as he spends about 20 hours a day asleep on the couch.  Plus what could be more easy? I've posted that shot many, many, many times on my Instagram feed. I did take a couple.  You can see one of them below in this week's photo gallery.

Finally I decided that I would get out and take a photo of something that I wanted to shoot, not just check a box for the week (even if I was late at this point).  During the day today(Tuesday) I noticed that the clouds were forming something that could be a nice background during sunset.  I decided to go out and run down to Pritchard Beach. I warned the boy that we were going to go at  4:30 and to go take a photo for Daddy's photo project.  He was eager to go tag along (I also told him he was going to be able to run around all over the park while I was taking the photo.) I thought nothing sounded more like a quiet moment than a beach in Seattle during the winter.

We got to the park and I took my first test shot.  I realized I didn't like the composition so I adjusted my shot and then waited for the colors to get really nice.  I think it worked out pretty well. I'm actually quite please with my shot overall.  Next time I just need the weather and (more importantly) my motivation to cooperate.

You're going to get another blog post later this week.  This week's theme is "Wildcard: Photographer's Choice."  I'm not sure what I'm going to shoot.  I do know that it's going to involve some film. I just need to figure out how I'm going to digitize my photos.

Week 3 Full Manual - Cold, Rain, and a Great Wheel

This week's challenge was Full Manual.  Like a lot of other people doing the challenge I did a long exposure, you can see several on Instagram here. In fact somebody else in the Facebook group had taken a photo of the Great Wheel earlier in the week, I didn't see it until I was posting mine.  Oh well.  As I've said before this is about getting practice in not about necessarily making great art, though I wouldn't mind it if that happened.

 What's been nice about doing this challenge is that I have all of the themes ahead of time.  That gives me lots of time to think about what I'm going to do in advance.  I'm able to go and shoot exactly what I want. We'll see if that keeps up. Because of this I had known that I wanted to shoot the Great Wheel, it's a bit cliche at this point but that's okay I hadn't shot it yet.  Like last week it was going to be a long exposure at night.

It had been rainy and cloudy all week, surprise surprise it's Seattle in winter. I tried to get down to the waterfront in time for blue hour but it didn't really matter as you'll see in the photos.  Thanks to Google Street View I had already scouted out where I wanted to shoot from.  I grabbed my camera bag and zipped down to the waterfront.  I set up my tripod and used my wide angle lens to get several shots of the ferris wheel at a variety of shutter speeds.  I then switched to my 85mm and 50mm to get detail/abstract photos of the wheel. While I liked those my photo editor (The Wife) liked the landscape one of the ferris wheel as can be seen here on Instagram.

You can see all of the selects from my shoot below.

Next week's challenge is Creative: Quiet Moment.  My initial plan was to go shoot a sunrise photo of Lake Washington with Mount Rainier in the background from Seward Park this week.  Though my dog Sammie sleeps like the dead all day long so I may end up taking a photo of him instead.  We'll have to see.

Week 2, in by a nose...

Before I discuss this weeks tale of photographic adventures I thought I would bring something interesting up.  According to the analytics provided me by the fine folks at Squarespace on average I get a visitor to my website... from the UK. I have had visitors from Devon, City of London, Hertforshire, Brighton and Hove, and Hackney.  I'm not sure why this is but hey, looks like I'm international!  (By the way if you are from across the pond and you stumbled across my little blog here please drop me a line!)

As I sit here typing away I still have an hour and a half left of the weekend.  When I decided to do this challenge I figured I should have the week start on Monday.  That way I have a full weekend to figure out when to get my shoot in. Good thing since I barely made my self imposed deadline in only the second week!

I knew exactly what I wanted to shoot this week.  Once a week The Boy has speech therapy on Capitol Hill.  We drive by this bar called the Hula Hula on our way to his appointment. I KNEW that was the thing I should photograph.  I just needed to figure out when.  Of course it rained a ton last week, Thursday was especially rough. I needed to wait until the weather would cooperate.  Finally tonight both weather and schedule cooperated.

I drove up to Capitol Hill Sunday night after dinner.  I had scouted the location a bit already on google maps so I knew the angle I wanted to make sure I maximized the orange. Once I finally found parking (sort of legally?) I walked down to the bar.  I walked around and confirmed the position that I wanted to shoot from.  I then set up the tripod and camera.  The thing I wasn't sure about was the exposure.  The signs were WAY brighter at night than I remembered.  I decided to do a bracketed shot.  This is where you take multiple shots of the same subjects at different exposures.  Once I had done that I packed up my stuff and went home. I think I spent more time driving around looking for parking then I did actually shooting.

Once I got home I loaded up the photos on my computer and realized that I was going to have to use two of my shots to get a proper exposure, good thing I bracketed.  I wanted the building to be bright and the signs to be legible.  That was not possible in one shot due to the brightness of the signs.  So I fired up Photoshop and blended two photos together to get what you see below.  I'm pretty pleased with what I got.

Hula Hula.jpg

Next up is Full Manual.  I think I'll go for another long exposure at night. This time I'll get it at a variety of shutter speeds while shooting the Ferris Wheel down by the waterfront. Hopefully we'll see different patterns in the light.

So I'm back...

Looks like despite my best efforts in trying to avoid New Years Resolutions I've succumb to at least one, working on my photography.  I have been feeling rather stagnant and blasé about my skills and what I'd been doing for awhile now.  Don't get me wrong I can take decent photos.  I just feel like I can and should be better.  Admittedly part of that is my eternal feeling that I always to some extent hate my photography because it's just never good enough.  The larger issue is that I just haven't been focusing on it like I can and should. I then began trying to figure out what and how I should go about trying to improve my photography.  Do I take on a project, if so what kind of project? I mulled this over for the last month or so especially as I put together my annual photography book for Christmas. Each year I put together a photo book of my best photos of The Boy and have it printed at Blurb and then give a copy to each of the grandparents as well as a copy for The Wife and me.  I realized that I take a lot of the same shots over and over and need to expand my repertoire.  There's nothing wrong with having a few tricks up one's sleeve to fall back on.  Again, I was just feeling rather stagnant.

In the end I've decided to take another shot at completing a 52 week photo challenge.  As you can see in my previous post I made it all the way to the end of April.  I should have an easier time this year.  I found this one on a post on Reddit from Dogwood Photography. The challenge this year is totally scheduled out.  This will make it much easier to plan ahead for future shoots.  Plus there's a Facebook Group and a subreddit that I'll be following along in. There's enough structure this time around I should have NO problem keeping up (I hope). What I like about this challenge is that there are 4 themes vision, technical, creative, and wildcard.  You need all those areas to really be able to create great photographs.  Your vision doesn't matter if you don't have the technical skills to execute it and there's no point in having technical skills if you can't use them creatively.  

This week's theme is, as is appropriate for New Years, Look Ahead.  For several days The Boy had been wanting to go to Kubota to "use his camera with color film" to take pictures.  Kubota, for those of you who don't know, is a fantastically beautiful Japanese Garden within walking distance of our house.  It's show up in my photography time and again for very obvious reasons.  Now I couldn't be happier that The Boy both wanted to go AND he wanted to take photos.  Due to crummy weather and work we decided to go as a family on New Years.  I hadn't decided if I was going to do the photo challenge at that point.  I just always take the camera long on those types of adventures.

We had a great time exploring back trails and taking lots of photos. as you can see below.

Once I had gotten back and started editing the photos I finally decided to do the project.  I knew exactly which photo to use.  It was a bit more literal than I like however, I thought it captured the idea of looking forward well. Especially since it was through The Boy's eyes.

Looking forward through The Boy's perspective.

So, we'll see how things go from here.  I hope that I'll grow both technically and creatively with this project.  The photos won't all be great and that's okay since this is a learning exercise, at least that's what I'll tell myself.  I already have a good idea of what I want to do for the color Harmony challenge.  We'll see if it works out or not...

Two posts in one! Low Angle and Telephoto shoots

This update has two different posts.  The first challenge was low angle and the second was telephoto.  I thought that the first one would be easy.  I'll just follow the boy around and take pictures of him while shooting him from the ground and pick my favorite.  I don't have a telephoto lens so I would need to rent one.  I had plans to head out of town with some friends to a cabin in the Cascades so I would have plenty of subjects to choose from.

Right after the low angle challenge was announced The Boy decided he wanted to play in his Superhero Cape and mask. He had a lot of fun running around and I even got him to pose for me for a few seconds.  (Seconds for 3 year olds might as well be a lifetime).  I was able to get a great shot of him looking very heroic.

  He looks heroic.

He looks heroic.

I loved the shot.  I wanted a few more options.  Easter was coming up and I thought that there would be some opportunities while we were at my brother's for Easter dinner.  One of the first things that The Boy does when visiting his uncle is to run to grab my brother's alarm clock.  Why? It's a giant Lego Storm Trooper, that's why! 

  Playing with the Storm Trooper in the hallway.

Playing with the Storm Trooper in the hallway.

  Maybe the Storm Trooper is helping Lightening McQueen to be able to jump the ramp?

Maybe the Storm Trooper is helping Lightening McQueen to be able to jump the ramp?

Finally I was able to get a cute picture of my dad reading to The Boy.

  The Boy does love story time. (For the picture I should have made my Dad put the can of pop away.)

The Boy does love story time. (For the picture I should have made my Dad put the can of pop away.)

I ended up posting the first picture of The Boy.  It was just too cute and I think a better photograph.

Next was the telephoto challenge.  I don't own a telephoto lens so I decided to rent one.  I've rented several lenses before.  It's great because I get to try out the latest and greatest equipment without having to actually buy it.  I decided to rent a 70-200 2.8 lens.  This type of lens is the standard for telephoto zoom lenses.  I rented one from a company called Tamron.  They are one of the main companies that make alternative lenses to the ones that Nikon sells.  In previous years 3rd party companies like Tamron did not have a good reputation for quality.  They beat Nikon on price and you got what you paid for.  Over the last couple of years this has changed dramatically.  This is great news for enthusiasts like myself who want to own quality products but not pay through the nose for them.  The lens I rented retails for $1500, not a cheap lens.  The Nikon version though costs $2300.  So for 95% of the performance you only have to pay 65% of the cost.  This is a lens that when I do need a telephoto lens on a regular basis I would consider buying.  Until then?  I'm happy to rent.

This past weekend was the semiannual Gentlemen's Weekend.  This is when a group of my male friends get together hopefully once a year, maybe 18 months, to hang out at a cabin in the Cascade Mountains and relax.  It's a lot of fun.  Normally we cram about 12 of us in a cabin with beds for 7.  Unfortunately this year we had a lot of cancelations.  There were only 5 of us able to make it.  We had a great time though.

My friend Scott wanted to go fly-fishing.  While I didn't have a rod and reel I decided to tag along and bring my camera along.  It would be nice to get out into the woods and I would have plenty to shoot.  Our friend Guy also came along and brought his dog Murphy.  We went to Greenwater Lake.  The lake we went to was about a 2 mile hike from the trailhead.  It was a beautiful hike.

  There were a few spots where the light was really lovely.

There were a few spots where the light was really lovely.

  The runoff from the snow was running really high.

The runoff from the snow was running really high.

I was able to get a couple of really great shots of Scott as he was fishing.

  Carefully trying to find the right spot to stand.

Carefully trying to find the right spot to stand.

  Mid cast.

Mid cast.

The area has a lot of elk that are not afraid of humans.  I was able to get one decent shot that weekend.  While I have always admired and respected what wildlife photographers are able to capture trying to take even one good picture of a relatively docile elk made me realize how REALLY hard it is.  It took me about 14 shots to get this one picture!

  They are amazing creatures, and HUGE too.

They are amazing creatures, and HUGE too.

One of the other images I was able to capture was this one of a cloud.  It's a little simplistic; I mean it's just a cloud.  I love the detail and color of the sky I was able to capture.

  A little basic and I love it.

A little basic and I love it.

In the end this is the picture I submitted. I like how I was able to capture the quiet and serenity that is involved in fishing.  Even if you don't catch anything you can still have a great time.

  The rolled up pants are a nice touch.

The rolled up pants are a nice touch.

Next up is a picture of a bike.  I have a few ideas I'm thinking about.  Hopefully one of them will turn out.

In a blatant grab for more views, more pictures of The Boy.

So, my last post was my most popular post yet.  It got 3 times as many views as the next most popular post.  Since my photography skills haven't improved THAT much I'm guessing it had a little something to do with the subject of the photo.  So with that in mind I decided that my subject would again be The Boy. (It also helps that he's a very easy and fun subject to photography.)

Last week's challenge was Monochrome.  The photographs could be black and white, or sepia, or any other color, as long as it was monochromatic.  I'm not a fan of photographs that are normally black and white and tinted with colors so I decided to create a black and white photo for my submission.  Taking good black and white photos in the age of digital photography is not as simple as changing your camera to take black and white photos.  The best way is to take color photos and then convert them with your software tool of choice.  I knew this ahead of time so I felt confident in my approach. What I didn’t know is how much of a challenge it would be to convert the photographs in a way that I liked.

My plan to get some good black and white photos was straightforward.  It was a beautiful sunny day on Saturday so I would take The Boy out to the park.  He loves playing and running around, like any 3 year old does, and I would bring the camera along to take a few photos.  As a side benefit I hoped that he would get tired enough to take a nap, he didn't.  I also was going to take The Boy up to visit my parents for a few hours so I figured I would be able to get some good shots there.

We had a mostly good time at the park, I won't get into how he tried to run too far ahead of me and into the road.  He ran around and climbed up on the big toys and went down the slides.  I made sure that I was a good dad and put the camera away after I got a few shots and played with him.  We then headed over to another park that's connected to the main playground area that's a beach/swim area.  It was too cold to swim so The Boy threw some rocks into the water and played on the beach.

After he refused to nap we went up to my parent's to visit.  He immediately went down to my brother's old room to start digging out the toys in the toy box that survived both my brother's and my childhood.  He made a huge mess and had a lot of fun.  He then made my Dad and I take him outside.  He walked around and inspected everything and I got some great shots of the two of them together.

I got home and started editing the photos.  It was at this point that I ran into trouble.  I wasn't happy with the black and white conversion process in Lightroom, my main photo organization/editing software.  The pictures were coming out too flat; they didn't have the depth that good black and white photos have.  I didn't have the control that I wanted over how they were turning out.  After doing some research I found that there were a variety of options that went from what I had been doing, simple/no control, to complex and offered tons of control.  I didn't want to spend forever editing each photo so I had to look for a method that offered some control and was fairly easy to learn.  I also wanted to avoid having to buy yet more software, though I have heard great things about some plug-ins for Photoshop and Lightroom.  I finally found a method that fit the bill and off I went to re-edit my photos.

Below are the photos I liked best first in color and then in black and white.

 The original.

The original.

 And now in black and white

And now in black and white

This next one was inspired by a photo my wife took of The Boy.

 The wife as a pretty good eye herself.  She also helps me review all of my photos.

The wife as a pretty good eye herself.  She also helps me review all of my photos.

 My take on The Boy sitting in the playground toy.

My take on The Boy sitting in the playground toy.

 The black and white version.

The black and white version.

 The Boy having fun on the beach with Lake Washington behind him.

The Boy having fun on the beach with Lake Washington behind him.

 While I like the black and white I think I prefer the color version a little more.

While I like the black and white I think I prefer the color version a little more.

 Looking at the rocks on the beach.

Looking at the rocks on the beach.

 I like how the focus is more on his face in this version.

I like how the focus is more on his face in this version.

 Searching in the sand.

Searching in the sand.

 The black and white focuses the eye on the texture of the beach and what he's doing.

The black and white focuses the eye on the texture of the beach and what he's doing.

 Yay! Toys!

Yay! Toys!

 The eye now goes directly to his face.

The eye now goes directly to his face.

 The light wasn't that great at this point in the afternoon.  Though I love this photo of them.

The light wasn't that great at this point in the afternoon.  Though I love this photo of them.

 I think this works much better.

I think this works much better.

 Another one I like of the two of them.

Another one I like of the two of them.

 And the final photo.

And the final photo.

Even with my slightly improved ability to edit photos in black and white there are some pictures that should remain in color.  While these are my favorites that I took that day not all of them translate well into black and white. Regardless of the outcome of the individual pictures I now have a better idea of what goes into making a good black and white photograph.  Now that I know better how to convert a picture into black and white I know what to look for when I shoot. Good black and whites often show amazing texture, focus on people’s expressions, and contrasting light and dark areas.  As my understanding and technique continues to improve my photography will continue as well.

I took 93 shots to just make 1 picture.

This week's challenge is Conceptual Photography.  What is that you ask?  According to Wikipedia, "it is a type of photography that illustrates an idea."  I thought, isn't that all of photography?  However, instead of capturing a decisive moment like Street Photography or how cute your puppy is Conceptual Photography is about staging the photo to express an idea.  Okay great, I had that figured out.  Now what?  What ideas did I want to communicate and how would I capture them in a photograph?

I had no idea on either part.

To start with it would help to have an idea.

Then it hit me.  One of the things that are most striking about The Boy is that he never stops moving.  I know all toddlers are busy and into exploring and learning about the world.  The Boy takes this to a whole other level.  Additionally, he's a complete and total ham at the same time (he gets this from his mother.)  So, my idea was to try to capture the frenetic energy of a toddler. How was I going to capture that?

With digital imaging tools, such as Photoshop, becoming easier and cheaper to use, photographs that are composites have become more popular to make.  It's a fairly simple task of taking several shots and then masking them together to show your subject in multiple places within the same shot. You can see a simple tutorial here.  I thought that I would take several shots of The Boy as he runs around and then composite them together into one photo.  

Now I wanted to show how much the kid moves so to emphasize this I needed to use a slower shutter speed, in this case 1/5 of a second.  I know this sounds backwards from what one might expect.  Fast shutter speeds are great for freezing motion.  If you want to show the Pitcher in a baseball game just after he has released a pitch with the ball in flight? Use a shutter speed faster than 1/1000 of a second.  If you want to give the impression of how much something is moving using a slower shutter speed will allow your subject to blur.  This gives a better impression of movement.

So, I had my idea and how I wanted to capture it.  The next question to answer was how to get The Boy to cooperate?  I wouldn't.  I decided to set up the camera on my tripod in the corner of the living room with my wide-angle lens.  That way I could ensure that the whole room would be in the frame.  I then set up my camera with my wireless remote.  I could then just fire off shots as The Boy went about his typical evening running, jumping, and playing ALL OVER THE ROOM.  I would then pick and choose the best examples to make the picture.  At first he was confused why the camera shutter kept firing.  He soon ignored it and went about his evening.

I ended up taking 93 shots.  Out of those I chose 8.  Some of them were too blurry or they weren’t interesting or they overlapped with shots of The Boy that I had already picked out.  I thought I was going to have more trouble with this.  I just needed to take some time and think things through. I'm pretty pleased with what I made.

I have written enough.  It’s time for the photo.

I give you “The Frenetic Energy of a Toddler.

 There are 8 different pictures of The Boy in this photo.

There are 8 different pictures of The Boy in this photo.

So, it's been a few weeks. Time to catch up.

For week 10, the theme was books.  I had a great idea of visiting the 12 Little Free Libraries in South Seattle and making a collage of the various little libraries.  Unfortunately, work, life, and weather got in the way but I'd like to revisit the idea.  I may shoehorn it into another project or I may just do it and post about it as a bonus.

So, what did I do? The Boy has taken to grabbing random books, reading them, and making up his own stories.  As is usual when he starts doing something cute, I grab the camera.  Sadly, I was not able to get one of him actually reading.  I did get this one:

 Look, you can see our laundry basket behind him.

Look, you can see our laundry basket behind him.

I submitted it to the weekly challenge and TOTALLY meant to write about that week's failures. Life got in the way and I got busy with parenting, work, and other familial obligations.

Last week's challenge (week 11) was abstract.  Now this time I was able to take some time and get some fun pictures.  In Seattle,  spring has returned.  The clematis and magnolia is blooming and it actually gets into the mid to upper 60's!  My wife had some lovely daffodils in a vase on our dining room table.  I grabbed my macro extension tubes and my flash and got to work.

 II am always amazed at the intricacies of the structure of flower petals.

II am always amazed at the intricacies of the structure of flower petals.

 I really liked at this distance the two flowers touching look like giant structures colliding.

I really liked at this distance the two flowers touching look like giant structures colliding.

 I love the combination of shadow, light, and yellow in this.

I love the combination of shadow, light, and yellow in this.

These were fine photos.  I really liked a couple of them.  However, They were not abstract enough.  I then wandered outside into our flower garden and took a few more shots.

 This was taken in daylight.  It's kind of fun being able to play around with a flash.

This was taken in daylight.  It's kind of fun being able to play around with a flash.

Finally the winner.

 The color, the repeating patterns, and the light really make this one work.

The color, the repeating patterns, and the light really make this one work.

Finally we have the current challenge (Week 12) of back-lit photos.  Back-lit photos can be difficult because your main light source is behind your subject.  If you are not careful, you can lose all of the details in the shadows and have blown highlights, which means your photo is both too bright and too dark.  There are several ways around this:  one is to expose for the bright light behind your subject so that the subject is turned into a silhouette, or secondly, use the blown highlights in an artistic way in your photo.

I have one number to demonstrate the challenges I had with getting a back-lit photo I was pleased with.

124

That's right.  I took 124 shots to get to the handful you will see below.

Other than Monday it has been cloudy, grey, and very rainy this week.  I didn't get a chance to do any shooting on Monday.  While the light is nice and soft when it was cloudy out,  I was not going to be able to get the dramatic back-light that I wanted.  I had to make my own.

I got my flash out and set it up behind some lovely flowers my wife had just picked up at the grocery store to do a quick test shoot.  The flash was behind and angled up to the top of the flowers.  I fired off several shots at various angles and adjusted the flash to figure out what might really work.

 Hey, this kind of works.

Hey, this kind of works.

Now that my test shoot was over and I was able to get a decent result, my plan was to really ratchet things up.  I wanted to play with both the quality and color of the light., diffuse the flash, and add an orange cast to the light to play with the colors.  

It mostly failed.

 The ceiling in our house is actually white.

The ceiling in our house is actually white.

 This was my favorite of the bunch.   The light is to the right and behind the flowers just out of the frame.

This was my favorite of the bunch.   The light is to the right and behind the flowers just out of the frame.

After some moaning and complaining about how NOTHING was working to my friend Ylana, she recommended that I simplify my approach.  Since my subject was still life, she suggested I get rid of the flash and just put the flowers in front of the window.

So I did.

 Remember kids, when in doubt ask a professional.

Remember kids, when in doubt ask a professional.

At this point I had taken a lot of photos and while there were some nice ones, I didn't LOVE them.  I was going to resign myself to the fact that hey, sometimes a photo is just a photo.  It's important to just learn the technique and that it's not always possible to make great art (also advice from Ylana. Hey Ylana, thanks!).

Then on Thursday,  the sun came out in the afternoon.  By the time I had finished with work, the sun had dipped too low to be able to get the photos of the clematis that I wanted.  I went to our side yard to get some of the Magnolia tree that we have.  Same situation.  I was rather frustrated at this point.  Either way, it was dinnertime and I had to go run to pick it up.  I got down to the car and started it.  I look up and see this huge bright beam of sun perfectly hitting a cherry tree perfectly full of blossoms at the top of the hill we live on.  I turned the car off and raced upstairs to grab the camera.  This is what I got.

 Spring in full bloom, light and shadow.

Spring in full bloom, light and shadow.

 Layers of color and shadow.

Layers of color and shadow.

 I love the way the pink flowers and blue sky look.

I love the way the pink flowers and blue sky look.

 The clouds look like they are an extension of the tree in this one.

The clouds look like they are an extension of the tree in this one.

 I love the repeating pattern of flowers and branches against the blue sky.

I love the repeating pattern of flowers and branches against the blue sky.

 You can see that everywhere is dark except the tree branch.

You can see that everywhere is dark except the tree branch.

 That's a lot of pink blossoms and light.

That's a lot of pink blossoms and light.

 More layers of color and light.

More layers of color and light.

 Darkness everywhere except on the branch.

Darkness everywhere except on the branch.

I took 47 pictures of that tree.

Unlike my previous attempts, I was not taking a lot of shots trying to make something happen that wasn't there but taking a lot of pictures because there was a lot to shoot.  Wide shots to get the full size and scope of the light playing with the petals of the flowers, close up shots to see the intricate details, and shots with the blue sky as the background to play against the pink flowers.

Normally I like to select just a few to share with you.  I had a very hard time doing that.  I was able to get it down to 9. There were just so many photos that I fell in love with.  Never underestimate how much great lighting and a good subject helps in making a good photo.  In a few days,  I would probably be able to distill the photos down to just the very few best ones.  I didn't want to do that this time.  I wanted to share my exuberance with these photos and a big part of that is showing so many of them.

Next week the theme is Conceptual Photography.  So I need to come up with an idea that I want to convey with my photography and then figure out how to shoot it.  Hmm... At least I have some time to ponder...

Back to doing what I like...

Last week I had an assignment that I just did not like at all with the DIY Soft Focus challenge.  This week was different.  This week's challenge is City Lights.  I get to do night photography!

The first challenge this week was the weather.  While Seattle has the reputation of being rainy it rarely rains very hard here outside of a few storms in November.  Normally it's a light mist/sprinkle.  March has been very different.  In the first 5 days of March we exceeded the normal amount of rain for the entire month.  Since none of my photography gear is weather sealed I couldn't go shooting in the rain.  Looking ahead I saw that there would be a break in the rain on Friday.  My plan was after The Boy went to bed I would head out.  I wanted to go to two places.  The first was to go to the corner of Boren and Pine.  It looks down on I5 passing underneath and towards The Convention Center.  The second place I wanted to shoot at was the Bell Street Cruise Terminal located at Pier 66.  You can access it on foot from Elliot Street. The Pedestrian footbridge passes over Alaskan Way with views of the street, downtown Seattle, and Elliot Bay. There's also an outlook that has even better views.

The next challenge was getting the exposures right. Auto exposure in modern DSLR's is fantastic.  The reality of modern cameras is that they are computers that are built with the sole purpose of taking pictures.  There are conditions that make it difficult for the camera to know what you want to do.  Long exposure photos are one of those situations.  DSLRs are able to automatically expose pictures with shutter speeds as slow as 30 seconds.  If you need an exposure of more than 30 seconds then you have to do math.  For an art media there is an awful lot of math involved in Photography.  There's math from how to compose, i.e. The Rule of Thirds and The Golden Rule, to color balance, and finally to exposure

So, how to figure out what the right exposure is? I set the camera to a 30 second exposure. I then set the aperture, how much light is exposed to the sensor; I then cranked up the ISO, how sensitive the sensor is to light, until that the scene was properly exposed.  Once I had that I could then do the math to figure out what the exposure time would be for the ISO that I wanted, in this case 100 the least sensitive for my camera.  I then do a little multiplication and figure out that how many minutes to expose for.  With that all figured out I was ready for Friday night to arrive.

Fortunately the weather on Friday was warm and dry. Before I went out I was checking out Facebook when I came across a post by the Vintage Seattle page. It was shot of downtown Seattle from 1984.

 Taken at Rizal Park

Taken at Rizal Park

It was a beautiful shot of Downtown Seattle from Rizal Park on Beacon Hill.  I decided to add this to my list of stops.  It was close by and on the way to the other two. My route for the evening:

So, now that everything was figured out, the battery for the camera was fully charged, and I had warm clothes it was time to go. I got to the park and walked down to the bridge overlooking the freeway.

 Overlooking the freeway.

Overlooking the freeway.

It was interesting standing on the bridge.  Despite the fact that it's made out of steel and concrete the thing would vibrate and shake when buses drove by.  The minimum exposure time on my shots were 30 seconds and up to 4 minutes.  If I wanted a sharp picture I had to check for buses before clicking the shutter.

 A slightly different angle.

A slightly different angle.

 A 239 second exposure.  I love how I caught the airplane in this.

A 239 second exposure.  I love how I caught the airplane in this.

 On of my favorite things to do now, long exposure panoramas.  Needless to say, click on the photo for the full experience.

On of my favorite things to do now, long exposure panoramas.  Needless to say, click on the photo for the full experience.

I was happy with what I got and hoped into the car and drove to Boren and Pine.  I got there quickly.  It being a Friday Night and one of the most popular areas to go to bars and nightclubs there was NO PARKING.  I should have thought of that before I took off.  I drove around for over an hour before I finally found a spot.  I was walking up the hill towards my intended location when I came across the Transit Tunnel.  I had to stop and take a few pictures, as you can see why.

 You can see the ghosting of the taillights of the bus on the righthand side of the image.

You can see the ghosting of the taillights of the bus on the righthand side of the image.

 A few stars came out along with the moon, and a little lens flare

A few stars came out along with the moon, and a little lens flare

Taking photos in public is an interesting experience.  While I was standing with my camera on my tripod most people walked past me as if I wasn't there.  Others look at what I was doing without comment.  Only one person approached me to ask what I was doing. I told him I was taking pictures and offered to show him some of the shots I had.  He took a look at one and liked what he saw.

Unfortunately my photos were suffering from severe lens flare.  I was only able to get one shot that I kind of liked.

 Too much flare!

Too much flare!

It was then on to the waterfront. I was really happy shooting here.  I was able to stand on the pedestrian bridge and get this shot.

 Not a typical view of Seattle.

Not a typical view of Seattle.

I then moved over to the viewing area over Pier 66.

 Skyscrapers, Alaskan Way, and The Wheel.

Skyscrapers, Alaskan Way, and The Wheel.

 This time with Century Link Field in the shot.

This time with Century Link Field in the shot.

 Another panorama.  Click on the picture to get the whole experience. 

Another panorama.  Click on the picture to get the whole experience. 

 Looking towards Harbor Island.

Looking towards Harbor Island.

All told I was out for about 4 hours.  I would say that was rather productive.  When I was a kid I used to fish a lot.  I liked the quiet and slowness of fishing and I was usually in very pretty locations.  I realized as I was waiting for the minutes and seconds to countdown on my pictures that this kind of photography is a lot like fishing.  It was quiet, I was able to take in the view, I was able to reflect, and I even got better results than when I used to fish.

So, which one did I submit this week?  It was tough.  I have several favorites, a good problem to have. I wanted something that shows Seattle yet isn't too cliche and typical.  You can see my post here.

 It helps that this is the one my wife likes.

It helps that this is the one my wife likes.

I'm supposed to put what on my camera?

This week's challenge was a little strange for me.  It was a DIY Soft Focus challenge.  The idea is that you take a pair of pantyhose and cover the lens on your camera to get a dreamy soft focus look in your pictures.  You can buy specially made filters that give this look to the images you capture.  The alternative is to use postproduction software to provide this look.  This weeks challenge was to do this not with a filter, not with software, rather with pantyhose. 

Yes, I was going to put pantyhose on my camera.

I was not thrilled with this challenge because soft focus is not my schtick when it comes to photography.  I like sharp and contrasty images.  I told myself that it was a chance to learn something new and that I may find out I like taking these kinds of images after all.

The first thing was to get some pantyhose.  Luckily my wife had to run to the store so she was able to get me some.

 Ah yeah, suntan colored hose.

Ah yeah, suntan colored hose.

The next part was to cut up the hose so that I could then mount it on the lens, with a rubber band.

 I know your camera is jealous of mine.

I know your camera is jealous of mine.

Now, because these were not the most high end of pantyhose they tended to run.  The example you see in the image above managed to get a run in them before I even left the house.   I took a couple of test shots in the house before I left, no I will not be showing those, so I had an idea of what kind of images might look good.  My idea was at Kubota to try to get some dreamy shots of newly budding flowers or maybe try to get some spooky shots of the forest areas of the park.

I arrived at Kubota late in the afternoon.  I took some fun shots before settling down to get the pictures I needed for this week's assignment.

 I loved the way the sunlight was shinning through the bamboo.

I loved the way the sunlight was shinning through the bamboo.

 A five shot panorama of the reflecting pond.  Click to get the full effect.  I've really been digging panoramas lately.

A five shot panorama of the reflecting pond.  Click to get the full effect.  I've really been digging panoramas lately.

It was then time to buckle down and put the pantyhose on (my camera).  The first shot I got was of the pond in the above picture.

 Not soft and dreamy, it looks muted and blah...

Not soft and dreamy, it looks muted and blah...

 A little less muddy, but still not there yet.

A little less muddy, but still not there yet.

 Maybe if I add a little off camera flash? No, still not there.

Maybe if I add a little off camera flash? No, still not there.

Finally I was able to capture something that I was okay with.  I don't love this image.  I do like it though and I think it does a good job at capturing the essence of the challenge.  This is on a trail looking down on one of the reflecting ponds at Kubota.

 Despite the fact that it was sunny and relatively warm the image looks like it was a cold and foggy day.

Despite the fact that it was sunny and relatively warm the image looks like it was a cold and foggy day.

So, not my favorite challenge. With there being 52 of them this was bound to happen and will happen again.  I did learn a few things though.  The first is that I just do not like the look of pantyhose on the lens.  While I love DIY projects and being able to get interesting looks without spending a lot of money this just didn't work for me.  I did enjoy, despite my grumbling as I walked around the park, working through the limitation of the pantyhose and trying to get a good picture.  It's always good to try different techniques and methods of photography.  It's a chance to learn and grow one's skills, even if you don't like pantyhose on your camera.

Reflecting on Reflections

I was talking to a friend last night I mentioned that during this project I had shot a lot of landscape photos.  The type of photography that I have enjoyed the most is getting great candid shots of friends and especially The Boy. I never thought of myself as much of a landscape photographer yet here I am having shot some landscape photos I'm really proud of.   I'm surprised at how much I've enjoyed landscape photography.  One of the things I want to accomplish with this year long project is to try different kinds of photography.  Maybe I'll find I like something new and different.  

I was listening to an interview with Jerry Stahl.   He's best known for writing his memoir of addiction called Permanent Midnight that was later adapted into a movie with Ben Stiller.  In the interview he said that he wanted to fail at every type of literature there is.  I loved this idea.  Go out try and learn from each genre.  You inevitably fail when you first start out with something new.  The trick is to learn from those failures.  If you are able to apply what you learn from the failure then it was okay.  With trying different kinds of photography I'll be able to learn different lessons about lighting, composition, exposure, and subjects and end up applying those to the areas of photography I enjoy most.

On to the photo shoot!

This week I almost ran out of time this week.  I was trying to figure out what I wanted to shoot.  The other complication is that the weather was really bad.  Lots of wind and hard rain.  I was able to grab some time Thursday night.  It was about 9:30 at night and I hopped into the car and headed over to West Seattle.  The weather had been pretty calm that day so I thought that I could get some great shots of of the lights of the city reflecting on Elliot Bay.  I first stopped here.  I set up with the tripod and started shooting away.  The first image I captured was this panorama of downtown Seattle.

 It's really worth it to click through on this image to see how really large it is.

It's really worth it to click through on this image to see how really large it is.

The panorama was a little tricky because each shot was a 30 second exposure.  There was a ferry coming in so I had to get the timing just right.

I messed around with different f/stops and exposure settings.  The next one was not as successful.  It doesn't capture the reflections as well as I wanted. I needed longer exposure times to smooth out the water so the reflections would stand out more.

At this point I got my gear together and walked south along the street to the other side of Salty's.  I wanted to get a more clear shot of Harbor Island.   I set up along the water in the parking lot next to the restaurant.  It was from this vantage point I was able to capture my two favorite shots.

 A different view of Harbor Island.

A different view of Harbor Island.

Then I took my favorite shot of downtown Seattle.  This is the one I submitted for this week's challenge.

 This is one of my favorite shots I've taken in this project.

This is one of my favorite shots I've taken in this project.

I was thinking that if I didn't love what I got Thursday night that I could go shoot at Kubota Gardens again and get some reflection shots.  Every previous week I needed the second shoot to get the image I wanted.

I didn't need that second shoot this week.

It's amazing what a game of chase will do.

The challenge this week is "Home."  Shooting this week was much easier than last week, I didn't have a sick kid to deal with.  I thought that I would kill two birds with one stone in my first attempt to capture the concept of "home."  80% of the pictures I have taken, since taking up this little hobby, are pictures of The Boy.  I thought that I would use my flash again and take some pictures of The Boy.  

Good idea, right?  Continue to learn to use flash and get cute pictures of the boy.  Of course, I ran into some issues.  The first is that I made a basic mistake.  I didn't change the settings for the camera from the last time I used it when I was shooting snow.  Fortunately I fixed that pretty quickly.  The other issue is that The Boy was not interested in sitting for a portrait.  He just wanted to watch one of his annoyingly loud kids educational show (seriously, can Dora get any more annoying?).  He did let me shoot away while he watched TV.  I just didn't get anything that I was happy with.  The issue was with the photographer, not the subject.  Then when I went to process the pictures I realized they were all underexposed.  Using a flash is not easy.  I struggled with setting the flash at a high enough power level to properly light the scene without washing everything out.  The more I learn about photography the more I realize I know very little and the more impressed I am by those that are able to consistently get good pictures.

  Why yes Dora, I'll say Swiper no swiping.

Why yes Dora, I'll say Swiper no swiping.

  There are three apples, Dora.

There are three apples, Dora.

  No more pictures daddy!

No more pictures daddy!

All was not lost.  I had an ace up my sleeve.  We had some good friends of ours coming over on Saturday for dinner.  They have a little girl that's a month older than The Boy.  I grew up with the husband.  We went to elementary school, middle school, and high school together.  We were also in Boy Scouts together.  While we were never really close growing up we got along well.  We reconnected when we were in the same birthing class with our very pregnant wives.  We found out that they have a lot of the same interests (food!) and live in the same neighborhood as we do.

It had been a very long time since we had gotten everyone together so we were all looking forward to getting together.  I had gotten very cute pictures of the kids together in the past so I knew that I would have a good chance of getting some great shots.  As I rolled out the dough,  the adults talked and the kids fought and cried and got along as toddlers prone to do.  Because I was covered in dough and flour I wasn't able to get any pictures until after dinner.

  Reliving his childhood with Lincoln logs.

Reliving his childhood with Lincoln logs.

  The adults joking around after desert.

The adults joking around after desert.

We were trying to figure out how the kids could get along after their latest tousle over some of The Boy's toys when the idea of "Chase" came up.  The Boy calls it "Run."  As all toddler games go the rules are simple.  One kid runs and the other chases the first kid until the first kid is caught.  Wash, rinse, repeat with sometimes changing up who is doing the chasing.  This was magical.  No more crying or fighting.  They got along fantastically, and I got some REALLY cute pictures.

  You can barely see the girl's foot in the frame as the blur of The Boy chases after her.

You can barely see the girl's foot in the frame as the blur of The Boy chases after her.

  He caught her!

He caught her!

  A perfect moment between the two friends.

A perfect moment between the two friends.

So for this week I submitted the picture above.  You can see my submission here.  It's a picture I really love.  The kids are unaware of, or ignoring, me and sharing a moment while they are framed by the hallway.  Capturing moments like this is why I really love photography.

Of course we had to get a picture of them together.  For reference the first one is when they were 3 months (The boy) and 4 months (the girl) old.

  The Boy is on the left and the girl is on the right.  Aw... they look like their holding hands...

The Boy is on the left and the girl is on the right.  Aw... they look like their holding hands...

Here they are today at 3 1/2 years old.

  Actually holding hands this time.

Actually holding hands this time.

The night was a lot of fun.  Good friends, food, and a few good photos of the kids.

Sunsets and Snow

The challenge this week is Beaches.  Living in Seattle we are surrounded by water.  The challenge this week was not lack of subjects.  The tricky part was getting time to go shooting.  This past week we have had amazing sunsets due to the unusualy clear and cold (in the 20's cold!) weather we've been having.  The bummer about living as far north as Seattle is that sunset comes awfully early.  Like sunset at 4:30pm early.  A combination of a busy week at work and having to go pick up The Boy from daycare before 6:00 made it difficult to get out and go shooting.  Fortunately I had one day on Wednesday where I was able to leave work early and head down to Lake Washington to get some shots in.

I headed down to Gene Coulon Park.  The park is on the east side of Lake Washington so I would be facing the setting Sun.  I left the house at 4:00 so I had to hurry to capture the fading light.  As I was walking from the parking lot there was a spot next to the swimming area where a creek opened into the lake.  It was framed on one side by some trees and bushes and on the other by the dock and pilings that enclosed the swimming area.

 Creek opening on Lake Washington.

Creek opening on Lake Washington.

I took several other shots and then continued on my way.  I walked out on the dock that frames the swimming area.  And captured some photos of the setting sun and the Boeing Renton plant where they assemble 737s.

 I like the colors and the sun flair in this shot.  Did I mention it was cold?

I like the colors and the sun flair in this shot.  Did I mention it was cold?

 I took this because I really liked the texture, color,  and the pattern of the waves.

I took this because I really liked the texture, color,  and the pattern of the waves.

 The last of the fading light.

The last of the fading light.

 Just for fun a black and white.

Just for fun a black and white.

I was pleased with the pictures that I got, especially the first one.  I wanted to capture another sunset from the west side of the lake.  My idea was to capture the golden light as it fell upon the other side of the lake.  Unfortunately life as a father interceded.  I got a call from the daycare on Thursday that The Boy was sick with a fever.  This threw off any plans I had of going out and shooting that night or on Friday.  The weather report didn't look good for sunsets the rest of the weekend.  Fortunately the fever finally lifted for good on Saturday.  I was fine with the pictures I captured when I did go out and resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't going to be able to go out shooting again.  Then, Saturday night happened.

The weather report said that Seattle was supposed to get a light dusting of snow that would turn into rain.  Forecasting snow in Seattle is almost impossible. Saturday night we got about 2" of snow.  The world was white and beautiful when we woke up Sunday morning.  I got dressed and headed out to Pritchard Beach Park to go capture the beach covered in snow.  I hoped that the snow was still pristine.  I couldn't have been happier.

 It was quiet and beautiful.

It was quiet and beautiful.

 It wasn't 100% pristine the ducks and geese had already been there.

It wasn't 100% pristine the ducks and geese had already been there.

 I'm a sucker for decorative grass. 

I'm a sucker for decorative grass. 

After working my way down the small beach I headed over to the trail that connects Pritchard Beach to Beer Sheva Park.

 The entrance to the walking trail.

The entrance to the walking trail.

 Snow covered trees.

Snow covered trees.

I turned around and headed back to the car and captured the following picture.  I edited this picture very differently than how I typically edit.  I normally like really contrasty pictures with almost over saturated colors.  In this picture I did the opposite.  I decreased the contrast and softened the image.  I really like how it turned out.

 A dreamy winter land. 

A dreamy winter land. 

As I got back to the car I saw that there were some kids walking along the water with their sleds.  This was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. I was able to get the picture below.  This is the picture I'll be submitting this week.

The next challenge is home. Anybody have any ideas? Maybe I'll get The Boy to participate in another photo shoot.

Back to Kubota, for water

This week's theme is water.  Naturally I thought, hey Kubota has LOTS of water features.  Surely I will be able to create a great picture of water there.  I mean, how can you miss with a great subject matter like that, right?

The weather report looked iffy most of the week so I went to Kubota Monday morning after dropping The Boy at daycare and before I started work.  It was a cloudy morning so there was lots and lots of soft gray light. I was the only person at Kubota so I was able to go wherever I wanted and take my time (I even climbed to a few places I probably shouldn't have to get the shot I wanted.)  While the shots I got were pretty and nice they weren't all that great.

Since I was able to take some time with each shot and I had my tripod I focused on taking long exposure shots of the water to get that nice smooth look.

 Nice long exposure of the first waterfall framed by some of the bushes.

Nice long exposure of the first waterfall framed by some of the bushes.

 A nice tall shot of half moon bridge.

A nice tall shot of half moon bridge.

 Maybe it'll be look better if I take a wide shot.

Maybe it'll be look better if I take a wide shot.

 This one is very pretty.  As of this writing it even has 2 likes and 45 views on Flickr.

This one is very pretty.  As of this writing it even has 2 likes and 45 views on Flickr.

So nice pictures, pretty pictures even.  One would think that in Seattle, a place surrounded by water, that it would be easier to get a nice water shot.  Maybe I just didn't have the vision for this weeks challenge, maybe I didn't have the skills.  I'm okay with that being the case because this whole project is about learning how to come up with that vision and then developing the skills to execute that vision.  Either way, the photos just weren't quite what I was looking for.  

I thought about setting up some shots using off camera flash to capture ice cubes falling into a glass of water.  I searched flickr for ideas.  On Friday the rain and the clouds began to clear.  For my lunch I decided to head back to Kubota.  

Normally the rule with landscape photography is that midday sunlight is bad.  The light is too harsh and your subjects will look blah.  There are so many hills and trees in Kubota so I figured I would get some interesting light and shadow effects that would be worth a try.

 The shadow and light on half moon bridge is very nice.  I also like the vibrant green, red, and blue in this shot.

The shadow and light on half moon bridge is very nice.  I also like the vibrant green, red, and blue in this shot.

 I really like this wider portrait shot of the bridge and pond.

I really like this wider portrait shot of the bridge and pond.

I walked around some more and eventually headed over to another pond.  This pond is fed by water that has been routed through a log.  I took several shots of it.

 Another nice and not great photo.

Another nice and not great photo.

 Maybe if it was backlight?

Maybe if it was backlight?

After I took far more pictures of that log than I care to admit I packed up and headed back to the car.  On the way out of the park I noticed that there were tons of water droplets still on the branches of the Japanese maple trees.  It looked kind of cool.  I took a few shots.  I was really happy with the results when I got back to the house and opened the shots in Lightroom.  These shots I captured as an afterthought were my favorite.

 The Wife thought this one looked like the droplets were photoshopped on.

The Wife thought this one looked like the droplets were photoshopped on.

 This is The Wife's favorite. and the one I submitted.

This is The Wife's favorite. and the one I submitted.

So, another week and another surprise with the results.  I'm learning that it takes a lot of work to create great photography.  You also have to be open to surprises and be ready to take advantage of them when they come up.  You can see my post here.

Next week's challenge theme is beaches.  I won't be headed back to Kubota for next week, I think.  I'll try Lake Washington or maybe head to one of the beaches on Puget Sound.