Thursday, December 26, 2013

Taking a Break for 2013 Favorites

I've decided to take two, maybe three, Fridays off from my normal "assignment" posts to instead take a look back at what I've shot in 2013.  On no particular schedule, my plan is highlight my ten favorite shots of the year.  There's a good chance that I'll have already posted most of these - or plan to in the future - but for this exercise, perhaps I'll talk a little about them (something I've purposely avoided in the "assignment" posts).

As usual, this is mostly for me - it's encouraging to think that I might be getting better (whatever that means).

Perhaps a good way to start is to look at a few of what I considered favorites at the end of 2012.  I still like these - but I hope I like my 2013 favorites more.

I noticed these backlit leaves while walking my son to the bus stop one morning and came back with my camera and tripod after the bus came and went.  I liked the way the light enhanced the otherwise drab color of the leaves, especially in contrast with the pure black.

This is one of those pictures that nobody likes but me.  I get that it's really kind of gloomy with the gray sky and all and I find it more interesting than captivating, I suppose.  My favorite aspect is probably the double motion blur - the rotary blur on the wheels versus the horizontal blur of the background.  It was also instructional to me to notice that the deep background is much more blurred than that big bush - that taught me to consider the distance to the background when looking for opportunities to try for cool panning shots.  The horizontal lines add something too, I think.

While I was first gaining enthusiasm for this photography thing, I read somewhere that "great subjects make for great pictures" or something like that.  I don't know that I have very frequent access to great subjects but it has stuck with me that I should try to take advantage of times when I'm seeing something you don't see every day.  Like five mountain goats, including a baby, lined up facing me on a diagonal with a gradient blue sky in the background.  It looks like an album cover from the 1980's.  Great picture?  No.  But still one of my 2012 favorites.  This was taken on Mount Evans in Colorado.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Converging Lines

Assignment #30:  Use converging lines to create depth or tell a story in a photo.

This one is a close cousin to leading lines.  I suppose radiating lines really "go" in the opposite direction but I think maybe they take the eye on a similar journey.  Also, I don't know that the point of convergence always needs to end up in the frame.

Y Warehouse
Heaven Hill Distillery, Bardstown, Kentucky

Batesville, Indiana

Friday, December 13, 2013


Assignment #29: Create a panorama shot of a wide view.

I used to use a pretty impressive piece of software to stitch together panoramic shots.  Then I got a new phone and the software became obsolete.  Now I just need to get somewhere with some big views.

Before the Drubbing
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana

Friday, December 6, 2013


Assignment #28:  Photograph a texture or contrasting textures.

I want to say something like "it's not that hard". I crack myself up.

Yellow Brick Wall
Akron, Indiana

Pacific Cacti
Torrey Pines State Reserve, La Jolla, California

Columnar Shadows
Balboa Park, San Diego, California

Friday, November 29, 2013

Reflection (on Water)

Assignment #27:  Take a photo of a reflection on water.

I'd like to get smarter about the type of light that makes the best reflections.  It seems like I could do a better job of getting in the right place at the right time for these shots.

Fellerman Ford Bridge
Ripley County, Indiana

Across Fawn Lake
Kokiwanee Nature Preserve, Wabash County, Indiana

Friday, November 22, 2013

Isolate via Negative Space

Assignment #26: Focus attention on a subject by surrounding it with sameness.

I'm partial to a bunch of black but there are a lot of ways to go with this.

Bourbon Barrel
Bardstown, Kentucky

Colter Bay Pelican
Jackson Lake, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Observations at Halfway

It appears that my “readership” is largely bots and phishers but that’s okay.  My primary goal at the outset was to broaden the way I think with a camera in my hand and I believe that that is being accomplished.  Publishing editorial-type posts like this might be a little silly, though.

A quick count suggests that I’ve shared 63 photos in the first 25 posts, split pretty evenly between photos that existed on the first day of this blog and photos taken since then.  I’m still reasonably happy with most of them.

My list of assignments has been fairly firm for a couple of months now, with 50 items.  Some are perhaps too closely related or overlapping but with what’s already been published, it’s too late for any substantial reorganization.  Besides, it’s all in fun anyway, right?  Might as well see if I can finish it out.

Towards that end, I have photos right now for less than half of the remaining assignments so it's certainly possible that I won't be able to keep up with my weekly schedule.  I’m going to treat that as motivation to keep shooting and hope to never compromise whatever standards I may have set thus far.  If I run out of fulfilled assignments, I don’t know what I’ll do.  Of course, the bots and phishers probably won’t care.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dutch Tilt

Assignment #25:  Tilt your camera for an artistic, unstable look.

While you can certainly overuse this technique, the off-balance, slightly-chaotic effect can sometimes be just what you need.

Akron, Indiana

Friday, November 8, 2013

Leading Lines

Assignment #25: Use leading lines to direct a viewer's eye towards your subject or through your image.

These never pop out at me as much as I wish they would.

Devil's Gulch
Natural Bridge State Resort Park, Slade, Kentucky

Whitewater Blue
Whitewater Canal and aqueduct, Metamora, Indiana

Friday, November 1, 2013

Candid Portrait (In the Public Eye)

Assignment #24: Use as a subject someone whose job or activity routinely puts them in front of other people.

One step up from taking pictures of friends and family is taking pictures of the large group of people who are out in public every day. A lot of them are probably accustomed to occasionally having a camera pointed at them. Doormen, buskers, flea market vendors, and the like can all make for an interesting photo.

Squeamish about aiming your camera at someone you don't know? Yeah, me too. I appreciate this great write-up by Andrew Kantor, which, while not legal advice, addresses concerns about legality. Very, very briefly, if someone has no expectation of privacy and you're not trying to embarrass them, it's pretty much okay to take (and publish) their picture.

Legality aside, I doubt most of us want to make someone we don't know uncomfortable (or angry). That's where focusing (literally) on those in the "public eye" may help.

Keeneland Bugler
Keeneland Racetrack, Lexington, Kentucky

Metamora, Indiana

Walking Paddock
Keeneland Racetrack, Lexington, Kentucky

Friday, October 25, 2013

Radial Zoom Blur

Assignment #23:  Zoom in or out while taking a picture.

If you hold your camera body reasonably steady and twist your zoom lens while shooting, you create the rather chaotic excitement of straight lines converging in the center of your sometimes-rather-abstract photo.

I imagine this can be done in post, but where's the fun in that?  Also, I'll acknowledge that these pictures may create a short-lived "wow" factor.  Still, it's something to try when you have a colorful subject that just isn't working out.

Patch Zoom
Fishers, Indiana

Pick Pic

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fill the Frame

Assignment #22:  Get so close to your subject that it extends beyond the borders of your picture.

There are numerous ways to "get close", of course - you can do it physically or with a zoom lens or with a post-production crop.

As a "fix", this is a good way to eliminate distracting background elements but use it also to create impact and emphasize details.

You 'Rang?
San Diego Zoo, San Diego, California

Metamora, Indiana

Fishers United Methodist Church Pumpkin Patch, Fishers, Indiana

Friday, October 11, 2013

Vibrant Colors

Assignment #21:  Take a picture that features a combination of bright, vibrant colors.

This kind of photo can attract a viewer's eye before they even look closely at it.  Bright colors are friendly and welcoming.  It's not by chance that a lot of children's items use the red-yellow-blue-green palette.  Include orange or purple to avoid being too kid-like.

Strung Up
Metamora, Indiana

Maya Riviera
Fishers, Indiana

Herd That
Metamora, Indiana

Friday, October 4, 2013


Assignment #20:  Take pictures of curves, spirals, and circles.

To my eye, finding some curves is a pretty reliable way to make a compelling photo.

Indianapolis Art Center, Indianapolis, Indiana

Park Blue
Pocket park bike rack, Fishers, Indiana

Washington and Illinois
Indianapolis, Indiana

Friday, September 27, 2013

Back Lighting

Assignment #20:  Take a picture with a backlit subject.

Pointing your camera towards your primary source of light is just asking for trouble, right?

Seagrove Bronze
Seagrove Park, Delmar, California

Best Fronds Forever
San Diego Zoo, San Diego, California

Street Light
Fishers, Indiana

Friday, September 20, 2013


Assignment # 19:  Display an often unseen level of detail with a close-up or macro photograph.

I originally had the this concept on my list as two separate items - one for recognizable items and one for the sort of semi-abstract types of things.  But I eventually decided that there is a lot of gray area between those two ideas so I combined and simplified the assignment.

Oh, and I think close-up is a relative term.  Fancy lens, schmancy lens.

Gamel R 283 S
Colorado Railroad Museum, Golden, Colorado

Fishers, Indiana

Zebra Longwing
White River Gardens, White River State Park, Indianapolis, Indiana

Friday, September 13, 2013


Assignment #18:  Take a photograph that contains a pattern.

I think of a pattern as a series of repeating or predictable elements.  I think a pattern doesn't have to be perfect or be in a straight line or have the consistency of size that enables it to go on forever.  I think almost every fence and sidewalk and cornfield makes a pattern.  I think compelling photographs can be made where a pattern is a property of the subject and also where the pattern is the subject.

Union Pacific Windows
Colorado Railroad Museum, Golden, Colorado 

Section 106
Victory Field, Indianapolis, Indiana

Friday, September 6, 2013

Not Level (Deceptively)

Assignment #17:  Take a picture that you intend to rotate for its final presentation.

There were two things that inspired this assignment.

The first was a picture of a bicyclist.  He was backlit to a degree so that his shadow fell between him and the camera and the shadow was bigger than the cyclist himself.  The picture was flipped 180 degrees so that, at first glance, the shadow appears to be an out-of-proportion silhouette.  Fun!

I also have recently seen some photos from a series of head-and-shoulders portraits in which the subjects were hanging upside down for the shoot but the final images are, again, flipped 180 degrees.  Some of the pictures look like the people are wearing fright wigs or lots of hair gel while others look almost normal.

Photos from tilted "mystery rooms" could work here as could some variation on the old "Batman and Robin climb a building" scenes which were filmed at a 90 degree tilt.

So, yeah, "deceptively" might be a little strong.  We're making a specific rotation for a specific reason but the ultimate goal isn't to permanently fool anyone.

Water Garden
Wheeling, West Virginia

Friday, August 30, 2013

Horizontal Lines

Assignment #16:  Find a shot strengthened by horizontal lines.

"They" say horizontal lines add calmness and stability to a photo.

The Winter
Fishers, Indiana

Milk Cans
Colorado Railroad Museum, Golden, Colorado

Friday, August 23, 2013

Frame Within a Frame

Assignment #15:  Take a shot through a window, door, or other foreground frame.

I know there are more of these out there than what I'm seeing.

Through the Cube
Indianapolis Art Center, Indianapolis, Indiana

Sugar Creek Suspension Bridge
Turkey Run State Park, Parke County, Indiana

Friday, August 16, 2013

Side Lighting

Assignment #14: Take a photo with the primary source of light off to one side or the other.

The key, for me, is to see the light.

Pioneer Village interpreter, Spring Mill State Park, Mitchell, Indiana

Here is the Church
Holy Family Episcopal Church, Fishers, Indiana

Friday, August 9, 2013

Warm/Cold Color Contrast

Assignment #13:  Take a photo that features a compelling contrast between two predominant colors - one warm and one cold.

This assignment was "Complementary Colors" when I first added it to my list - that's a popular technique in a lot of how-to discourses.  I found it odd, though, that some folks listed complementary pairs in terms of paint colors - blue/orange, red/green, and yellow/purple - while others used the color wheel for light - blue/yellow, red/cyan, and green/magenta.  So who's right?  Could it somehow be both?  Are there really just three color pairs that one should watch for?

I couldn't answer those questions until I read a few paragraphs by Anne McKinnell suggesting that the most compelling color pairs contrast a warm color (like red or yellow) with a cold one (like blue or green).  I like that idea.  It makes more sense than blindly following a color wheel and allows for the possibility that different shades of a color can have different temperatures.

Anne suggests using lots of one color with a splash of the other.  I think she'd agree that that's not a hard and fast rule.  I have also found that a certain amount of neutral colors in a photo doesn't necessarily interfere with the effectiveness of the contrast.

In the sky over the Nickel Plate District Amphitheater in Fishers, Indiana

Nearly empty stands at Victory Field, Indianapolis, Indiana

Friday, August 2, 2013


Assignment #12: Track a moving subject with your camera.

I'm a big fan of these shots but I've learned that you don't generally just stumble upon them - you usually need to put yourself in the right place at the right time.

Pacific Pelican
Torrey Pines State Reserve, La Jolla, California

Spinning Wheel
Keeneland Racetrack, Lexington, Kentucky

Friday, July 26, 2013


Assignment #11: Find some symmetry and capture it.

Left-right symmetry is the easiest to find, but don't forget about up-down and rotational symmetry.

Rack 'Em Up
Indianapolis Art Center, Indianapolis, Indiana

ACI markings, Colorado Railroad Museum, Golden, Colorado

Stone Arches
Spring Mill State Park, near Mitchell, Indiana