Kubota

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...

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.