Photo Project

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.

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.

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.

Angles, Darth Vader, and The Library

This week's challenge is angles. "Angles : 90° 180° -- Show us an interesting photograph with an angle."

I had a clear idea of what I wanted to shoot this week, The Seattle Central Library.  It was designed by Rem Koolhaas and is full of very cool windows and angles.

 Photo by  DVD R W .  See, lots of cool angles.  How could this go wrong?

Photo by DVD R W.  See, lots of cool angles.  How could this go wrong?

My plan was pretty straightforward.  The weather report said that it was supposed to be sunny later in the week so I would take a little longer lunch on Friday and zip down to the library and take about a half an hour and take several pictures.  I do have a confession to make though.  Despite the fact that I am a proud native of Seattle, I have never actually been in the library.   This would be a great time to correct that.

Before I got to Friday, and my photo shoot at the library, I had a meeting with a potential client on Thursday.  The meeting was located at the north end of the waterfront of downtown Seattle.  I took my camera along because one never knows if there would be something good to shoot.  After the meeting I walked around for a bit.  I took some terrible and boring pictures of the Alaskan Way Viaduct that I will not be sharing.  A few blocks away though I saw what is now known as the 4th and Blanchard Building. It wasn't known as that when it was built in 1979.  It was known as "The Darth Vader Building."  I was, and am, a HUGE fan of all things Star Wars related.  So much so that my parents took me to see The Empire Strikes Back at the very tender age of 4. (As a side note, now that I am the father of a 3 year old what were my parents thinking!?!?!?  Empire is a scary movie!  Darth Vader is one bad dude and to top it off everything goes wrong for the good guys in that movie, it doesn't end on a good note.  How was I not emotionally scared for life after seeing that movie at such a young age?)

 Photo by  Joe Mabel .  Look at that thing!  The design still holds up 35 years later.

Photo by Joe Mabel.  Look at that thing!  The design still holds up 35 years later.

So I started walking the few blocks towards the building and started taking pictures.

 I like the abstraction of the building and the repeating pattern of the windows.

I like the abstraction of the building and the repeating pattern of the windows.

 Windows into infinity

Windows into infinity

 I really like how the color of the sky is reflected on all of the glass, along with the trees in this photo.

I really like how the color of the sky is reflected on all of the glass, along with the trees in this photo.

 The sharp lines of the building are very cool.

The sharp lines of the building are very cool.

 I love the shadow and then the reflection of the other building in this one.

I love the shadow and then the reflection of the other building in this one.

It's amazing what you can get in just a few minutes.  On my way back to the car I was able to capture a few other nice surprises.

 Sometimes there are advantages of shooting during the middle of the day.

Sometimes there are advantages of shooting during the middle of the day.

 My favorite of the day.

My favorite of the day.

Now, I know what you're thinking.  Those are some nice pictures.  I even really like the one with the trees in it but where are the library pictures you led with?  Fear not, they are next.

As planned I hopped in my car and zipped downtown and grabbed the first parking spot I could across the street from the library.  I just started walking around the library and took shots as I went focusing on the unique angles and details of the building.

 It's kind of hard to take a bad picture of the library.

It's kind of hard to take a bad picture of the library.

 This thing is made for photographers.

This thing is made for photographers.

I then went inside.  I worked my way all the way up to the top and then worked my way down taking photos as I went.

 Looking into one of the corners.

Looking into one of the corners.

 Looking out from one of the meeting rooms onto the atrium of the building.  This is also my wife's favorite that I took of the library.

Looking out from one of the meeting rooms onto the atrium of the building.  This is also my wife's favorite that I took of the library.

 The combination of the soft acoustic tiles and hard angles is awesome.

The combination of the soft acoustic tiles and hard angles is awesome.

 Looking down from the highest point.

Looking down from the highest point.

 On my way back down now.  How cool is it that they embedded the Dewey Decimal numbers in the floor like this?

On my way back down now.  How cool is it that they embedded the Dewey Decimal numbers in the floor like this?

 Looking up to the top of the atrium.

Looking up to the top of the atrium.

 One final look before I left.

One final look before I left.

Both shoots were a lot of fun.  As was the case with my previous challenges I wish I had been able to take more time.  I only had about 20-30 minutes both times this week before I had to get back to work and regular life.  Going forward I will need to figure out how to schedule more time to be able to focus on what kind of image I'm trying to make. I have a feeling though that this is the case with all photographers, not just ones who are trying to cram in a project during their lunch hour.

So, which photo did I choose to submit this week?  My wife's favorite, of course.

 Atrium through mesh.

Atrium through mesh.

Next week's challenge is water.  "Water : Fluid, Frozen, Splashing or Soaked?"  I have a few ideas already.  I can take some long exposure photos of the streams and waterfalls at Kubota Gardens or maybe head down to the shore at Lake Washington, I do live like 3 blocks away.

Stay tuned readers for more adventures.

Construction, more construction, and Flowers

With last week's assignment, Seasons, I knew in an instant what I wanted to shoot.  I had a clear vision right away. This was not the case with this week's challenge.  I struggled to come up with a concept.  The assignment for this week is "New Begining."

Some of the participants are taking pictures of new hobbies they have started this year while others are posting pictures of other random new things in their life.  My first idea was to shoot some of the construction going on in the neighborhood next to mine in Seattle called Georgetown.

Georgetown used to be a company town that was incorporated in 1904 largely as a defense against prohibitionism (awesome, right?).  Later it was annexed into Seattle.  The original Rainier Brewery, located in Georgetown is being rehabilitated.  A large part of it had to be torn down due to it being unsafe.  A portion of the rest is currently being renovated.  At lunch earlier in the week, I went down to the always fantastic Calamity Jane's.  As I walked along the street I took several shots of the work being done.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get close enough nor have a long enough lens to get the shots that I wanted. The other issue I had was the blah grey skies.

 Some of the completed construction.  Also, yay for adjustment brushes in Lightroom! I was able to underexpose the sky and make it look a little more interesting.

Some of the completed construction.  Also, yay for adjustment brushes in Lightroom! I was able to underexpose the sky and make it look a little more interesting.

 Workers restoring the facade.

Workers restoring the facade.

 Now, in color! (This is actually my favorite of the pictures I took that day.)

Now, in color! (This is actually my favorite of the pictures I took that day.)

While I liked the pictures that I took, I wasn't in love with them and they didn't scream "New Beginnings" to me. I had a client meeting in downtown Seattle later in the week so I took along my camera and took a few shots as I walked to lunch and back to my car.  There was a large skyscraper being built so I took several shots of that.  The photos are okay... just not great.

 Again, blah skies.

Again, blah skies.

 Oh, high contrast...

Oh, high contrast...

 Nothing to do with the assignment I just loved the repeating pattern and the angles.

Nothing to do with the assignment I just loved the repeating pattern and the angles.

 A typical picture of downtown Seattle over I5 facing south.

A typical picture of downtown Seattle over I5 facing south.

 Oh, contrasty, grainy, AND black and white.  Now that's art!

Oh, contrasty, grainy, AND black and white.  Now that's art!

Since I still was not quite pleased with my photos from downtown.  I embarked on taking some other pictures based on an idea from my lovely wife.  FLOWERS!

As many of you saw in my first blog post, I got a flash and some very nice lighting equipment for Christmas. My wife has a winter Paperwhite bulb growing in our garden window.  It just blossomed so I took some photos using my flash off camera. I also used one of the extension tubes I got for my birthday so I could take some closer up macro photos. Extension tubes are added between your camera body and the lens so you are able to take pictures MUCH closer to your subject (It's how those super cool close-up photos of bugs are taken). 

 Pretty...

Pretty...

 Look at the details.

Look at the details.

 I like how the colors of the white petals and the yellow pollen pop.

I like how the colors of the white petals and the yellow pollen pop.

 This one is kinda dreamy.

This one is kinda dreamy.

While this week has been a struggle to find something that I was pleased with technically, artistically and fit the theme of the challenge, I am glad that I have struggled.  This is the point of embarking on a large personal photography project.  I get to struggle and work through challenges that I normally would not have come across.  If you look at my Flickr or Facebook pages you will see that there are A LOT of pictures of The Boy.  He is my favorite muse.  I have learned a lot about photography trying to capture better and better pictures of him.  He gets more and more challenging as he gets older so it works out well.  While this is great I do need to expand my comfort zone and try new photography challenges.

So, what picture did I decide to submit?

I love the texture of the brick and that they are working to bring new life to an amazing old building.

P.S.

When I first made the website I hadn't taken the time to go through my images and select my best for my portfolio.  Instead,  I selected a bunch from my trip to Italy last year with the intention of going through my images later.  I have read over and over again to select only the very, very best of your images to display.  I was shooting to include only my best 20.  It ended up being too difficult to go from 11,000 photos to only 20 so I ended up with 34.  Please take a look and enjoy them.  Let me know your thoughts and thanks for taking a look.

Frost and Japanese Gardens

The first assignment was posted last night on Digital Photography School.  It is titled "Seasons."  Whatever the season looks like or means to you in your area of the world.  The author of the post is in Melbourne, Australia so January is grilling time for him.   As soon as I saw the topic I immediately had my idea for the assignment. Here in Seattle November through April generally means mid 40's and drizzling rain.  Lately though it's been colder, mid 20's at night, and lost of frost in the morning.   I hope all of the weeks are this easy for me to get an idea.

After I dropped The Boy off at daycare I headed to our local japanese garden, Kubota Gardens.  To say that Kubota is beautiful is an understatement.  In the spring and summer it is often used for wedding, engagement, or quinceañera photo shoots.  My family goes to Kubota year round and are aways amazed at the variety of beauty throughout the year. Given the heavy frost we've been having I thought there might be some great opportunities for shooting. 

After I dropped The Boy off at daycare I didn't have much time, maybe 45 minutes to an hour, before I had to head back home and work (ah, the joys of working from home).  So I made sure I had everything ready and worked quickly.  I mainly used my 17-50 lens with a few shots with my 50 1.8 using an extension tube to capture some macro shots.  I worked my way around the main areas of the garden, shooting as I went. Both during shooting and post processing I found that I was more drawn to tiny details than large subjects. I am often drawn to small details such as shots of The Boy's hands holding Christmas Ornaments. (I am also drawn to overhead shots such as this one.) 

The first thing I was fascinated with was all of the decorative grass that was covered in frost.

   Frost on Grass I

 Frost on Grass I

   Frost on Grass II

 Frost on Grass II

I then worked my way around to one of the main ponds, the Spring Pond.  This pond is always popular with people taking snapshots, though I've struggled with taking a picture that I've really been happy with.  I was able to capture the fog rising off of the water this time and the greenery that is always present here in the Pacific Northwest. 

   Spring Pond fog

 Spring Pond fog

   Frost on moss.

 Frost on moss.

 One thing I did not realize is that it was cold enough for some of the ponds to partially freeze over. The ice formed beautiful patterns in the water and the low sun reflected nicely on it.

  Frozen Pond Reflection

Frozen Pond Reflection

 Finally I got this picture of the Moon Bridge covered in frost.  

   Moon Bridge in frost.

 Moon Bridge in frost.

I wish that i had enough time to get up to the Heart Bridge.  It would have looked really spectacular.  Next time I'll head straight for it.  I'll also try to get there in time to set up for sunrise.

   Heart Bridge in Summer.

 Heart Bridge in Summer.

 In the end I'm only able to submit one photo for the challenge.  I love the first photo I took of the grass covered in frost though I've decided to go with the fog rising from the spring pond.  The assignments for the next several weeks were announced along side this weeks.  

They are:

  • 6th Jan - 20th Jan : Seasons
  • 13th Jan - 27th Jan : New Beginnings
  • 20th Jan - 3rd Feb : Angles
  • 27th Jan - 10th Feb : Water

Lots to think about for the upcoming themes.  I'm sure I'll come up with something.

A photo shoot with The Boy that ends up with some surprising results.

While I'm waiting for the weekly challenges to start from Digital Photography school I decided that I should start learning how to use the flash and lighting equipment that I got for Christmas (Thanks Mom and Dad!).  I wasn't sure what I was going to shoot.  At first I thought I would take one of The Boy's giant stuffed animals as my model and just start moving the light around it and vary the intensity of the flash to see what results I got.  Not exciting, though educational.  Life can't always be exciting when learning something new.

During my daily reading of the news and photography related sites I stumbled across Jared Polin's monthly challenge for January.  In it he wants pictures of your bedroom.  I thought, ah hah!  Jonah and I will often rough house and play on the bed in our spare bedroom.  I would set up the lighting equipment and have The Boy jump up and down while I shoot away and make adjustments to the camera and flash.  The Boy LOVES to jump, genius!

I picked up The Boy from daycare and got started setting up the light stand, shoot through umbrella, flash, sync chord, and camera.  I asked The Boy to take off his shoes and start jumping away.  He was having fun, I was having fun.  The lighting rig was set up camera left at about 7 feet or so and pointed downwards.  I wasn't getting the results I wanted, the room was over exposed from what I wanted to achieve.  Despite this issue I was able to get a couple of cute shots.

   The Boy jumping with enthusiasm. 

The Boy jumping with enthusiasm. 

   The Boy needing a rest after jumping so much.

The Boy needing a rest after jumping so much.

I realized part of my issue.  I still had auto ISO turned on my camera so all of my shots were at ISO 1600.  I wanted the ISO to be at 100!  I corrected my mistake.  I lowered the flash and increased the intensity of the flash from about 1/64 to 1/8.  I wanted some moody lighting to be moving from the lower left to the upper righthand side.  Unfortunately The Boy was done with jumping.

The thing with 3 year olds is that they are curious, very curious.  The Boy wants to know about anything and everything.  He decided that instead of jumping on the bed he wanted to inspect the flash and umbrella. The inspection turned into pressing the buttons and trying to make the flash work.  Things ended up with pretending it was raining and The Boy needing to hang out under the umbrella because "it's raining." I took one shot of him next to the umbrella and liked the result and kept shooting.  I couldn't be happier with the results.

My favorite is at the end with using a blue diffuser on the flash.

  Inspecting the 'brella.

Inspecting the 'brella.

  Hiding from "the rain."

Hiding from "the rain."

  I wanna make it work!

I wanna make it work!

  My favorite of the shots I took tonight, and possibly for awhile.

My favorite of the shots I took tonight, and possibly for awhile.

And so it begins...

Welcome to my first post on my blog.  

For 2014 I have decided to attempt a year long photo project to improve my skills.  I thought about doing a 365 project and then quickly realized the error of that thinking.  I have a very active 3 year old at home (what three year old isn't active?) and I like being an active and engaged father, so I don't really have time for a 365 project.  The prospect of taking selfies at 11:59pm just is not appealing. Instead I am going to start on a 52 week project.  Hopefully I will learn much and grow in my skills.  

I will be primarily using weekly photography assignments from www.digital-photography-school.com as my source of inspiration.  I also have a new Diana F+ and a new Yonguo 560II flash that I will be learning how to use over the course of the next year.  I'll have a separate  post for the gear that I have at my disposal.

I figure that I'm more likely to be successful if I put out this little project of mine into the world.  That way I can use peer pressure from anonymous internet users to keep me honest.

We'll see how things go.  I'm very excited to see where this project will take me.