Tuesday, January 14, 2014

That's Enough Assignments for Now

I'm going to officially put the "assignments" posts on hiatus for a bit. Life and weather are not conducive to taking a lot of photographs right now and I don't want get desperate and use shots I'm not thrilled with.

I have some other things to "talk out loud" about, though.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2013 Favorites: Orange

This is the sixth and final post focused on my favorite photos (of mine) in 2013.  I didn't set out to present them in sorta-themed pairs but it just worked out that way.  I had a thirteenth shot that was kind of a borderline favorite so, since it doesn't have a partner, it doesn't make the cut.

Back in the Stone Age, when I was in kindergarten, we made birthday cards for each other.  You got to pick what color construction paper was used on your big day.  I chose purple although I don't really remember thinking of it as my favorite color nor do I think I've really had a clear favorite color since then.

But in my photos, I have noticed that I am often drawn to images with blue and orange, in combination or separately.  I don't know why.

Here are some orange-y favorite photos.

This is a backlit close-up of a variegated tulip, taken last spring.  I like that it's a little abstract.  I like the vibrant colors and the obvious presence of layers, even if you don't know exactly what it is.

I suppose some day I'll look at this and wonder how I could have thought that something this gimmicky was any good.  For what it's worth, it's a zoom blur shot, not the result of cheesy post-processing, but I don't suppose that should really matter.  Can you tell what the subject is?  I shot this while volunteering at our church's pumpkin patch fundraiser (some shifts are less busy than others).  The colors come from pumpkins, grass, and straw.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2013 Favorites: Lines

This is the fifth post about my favorite shots of 2013.  If anyone's counting, this brings the number of shots to ten and I know back in the beginning I said something about a "top ten".  In 2012, when I tried to collect my top ten, I only came up with eight.  This year I think my top ten will include twelve or thirteen.

So, lines.  Leading lines, horizontal or vertical lines, diagonal or converging lines, crazy erratic lines.  I like them, really I do.  I just don't seem to see them as often as maybe I should.

Here are some lines I like from 2013.

As you descend into Devil's Gulch in Natural Bridge State Resort Park in Kentucky, you travel down narrow stone steps before you get here, to a more user-friendly path.  I recently used this to fulfill the "leading lines" assignment.  I suppose it's not as straightforward as some leading lines but I still think it counts.

I really like the perspective of this shot.  I think it's pretty obvious that I'm just standing at my normal height, ready to go down the steps.  A common tip is to be wary of shooting from the easy, obvious spot, but in this case I think it works.

I took this with my wide angle zoom (18-55mm or something) and in the unprocessed image, the vertical posts were all splayed out from center - the opposite of the "tall buildings falling over" effect.  It feels a little funny to use the perspective tool with such a heavy hand, but I like where this one ended up.

I might also point out that this is an exposure blend of three different versions of the raw file.  That's a lot of processing for me but it wouldn't have worked without it.

This is a decrepit fire escape behind a building in Akron, Indiana.  I don't really know but I suspect that this is one of those shots that I like a lot more than other people do.  As a photo, I like the deep colors and sharp contrast and straight lines going every which way.  And I'm just a sucker for decay, like falling-down old barns or weather-worn gravestones.

The ol' Dutch tilt thing isn't something I do very often but here it gives that little nudge towards abstract that I think is necessary.

Monday, January 6, 2014

2013 Favorites: Simplicity

This is the fourth post about some of my favorite shots of last year.

There are other reasons to like these photos, but I like that they're simple.

This is a spur-of-the-moment shot that I took looking straight up at an event at our local amphitheatre.  I don't remember who was giving away balloons or how these escaped.

It's one of those things that is subject to change, but right now this is probably my favorite shot of the year.  This church is not far from our house but is just slightly off the beaten path so I don't see it all that often.  One morning, I passed it on my way to somewhere and noticed the great side-lighting from the early sun.  The next day I went back with a camera.

The sky was cloudier and grayer than the day before and had a jet trail running through it.  I went ahead and took some shots anyway - including this one from a low point of view - figuring I could come back and try again.  At home, I quickly went to B&W because there wasn't much compelling color with the gray sky and white siding.  All of sudden, I didn't hate the sky any more.

I've actually used this in three distinctly different crops, which is unusual for me.  My "main" version, for a long time was a 1:1 crop that cut out the right side, leaving an interesting off-center symmetry.  The background on my phone is a vertical 9:16 crop of just the center of the photo.  And then there is the view I'm displaying here.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2013 Favorites: Reflections

This is the third post in a series on my 2013 favorite photos.

Cool reflections are harder to find than I thought.  I know this because I spent a fair amount of time looking for them this year.  (Yep, more influence from the ol' assignments list.)

Here are a couple that I found and particularly liked.

This is the Fellerman Ford Bridge in Ripley County, Indiana.  We had planned to attend a geocaching picnic in Ripley County and the hosts listed "stone arch bridges" as a local attraction.  So my son and I went out ahead of my wife and sought a few of these out.  This is the first one we found and the only one that gave up a decent picture.  

I like the curves and the nice clear reflection.  My son has the "wander into the picture and look contemplative" pose down and I greatly prefer this shot - with someone in it - to shots of just the bridge.

This shouldn't matter but it does: I like that this reflection can't be artificially created in Photoshop or wherever since part of the view is only visible as a reflection.

I like that this shot makes you wonder a little about what exactly it is.  It's not as processed as some might think.  This is a reflection of wildflowers in my aunt's backyard pool, flipped 180 degrees.  I like that it's a little thought-provoking and also that it's fairly monochromatic but not in a black/white way.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

2013 Favorites: Curves

This is the second in a series of posts featuring my personal favorites of what I shot in 2013.

The reason I started this whole "assignment" business is that I've found that looking for something in particular helps me to see things that I might otherwise miss.  And sometimes it's exactly that something in particular that gives a photo an extra bit of interest, a little pop.

The idea of shooting curves is a fairly recent and happy discovery.  I got the idea from someone else's list (Anne McKinnell maybe?) and have been delighted with the fairly high signal-to-noise ratio of my results.  Simply put, when I find curves to include in my pictures, there seems to be a good chance that I'm going to like the result.  It feels like cheating, but in a good way.

Here are some great curves.

This is actually a bike rack in what they're calling a "pocket park" here in Fishers, Indiana.  In what is probably too rare an occurrence, I took this while walking around for no reason other than to take a few picture one nice morning a while back.  Getting in close and getting down low were the keys for this shot.  What's that they say?  Stand in the right place.  Shoot from the right height.

If you're like me, the shot you plan to take is seldom the best of the bunch.  Last summer, my wife was running in a half-marathon in downtown Indianapolis and we decided to just get a hotel room and make a weekend out of it.  I looked forward to getting some shots of runners passing in front of a grand war memorial or maybe some intense or interesting portraits at or near the finish line.  Instead, my favorite shot of the weekend is this one, taken on my walk from the memorial to the finish line.  I've been in this spot hundreds of times.  But this time I saw the curves - and the sleek blue/white palette of this view. 

For the record, the curvy structure is the Indianapolis Artsgarden, which spans the intersection of Washington and Illinois streets.

Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 Favorites: Birds

This is the first of several posts to feature my favorite photographs of 2013. I haven't gone out of my way to define what "favorite" means but it doesn't necessarily mean that these are the best of the lot and it doesn't necessarily mean they were popular with other people. They're just my favorites, as of right now, in no particular order.

Two of my favorites are bird photos. I probably don't have a long enough lens for a lot of great bird shots (I max out at 300mm) nor do I have the time/patience/inclination to sit quietly, waiting for birds to come to me. I shoot near my house, I shoot at feeders at state park nature centers and, once in a while, I shoot in some sort of aviary.

I take a lot of bad pictures of birds. They're not quite sharp for any number of reasons or they're poorly lit or, perhaps most commonly, the background/environment is drab or distracting. It doesn't help that my backyard is most often host to house sparrows and grackles and the like. And would it kill Mr. Bird to do something more interesting than just sit there? In an appropriate area of my frame, of course.

With all that said, here are two bird pictures that I happen to like.

This picture almost didn't make the cut because it's just a cardinal.  Cardinals are pretty common in our neck of the woods.  But they're still neat to look at and this one just happened to strike a pose looking into the sunlight while sitting in a flowering tree with a nice blue sky in the deep background.  So it's a favorite just because it's pretty.

I took this maybe thirty or forty feet away from where I'm sitting as I type.  It's a pear tree growing less than ten feet from the faded green-gray paint of the rental house next door.  There aren't too many angles that give one a sky in the background and the tree flowers for only a short while each year.  I'm happy that the right circumstances came together for this shot.

I took this in an aviary at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  Usually in these situations, I take a picture of nearby signage so I can show off how smart I am by casually identifying the birds.  I didn't do that this time and my subsequent Googling has also let me down.

Whoever they are, these guys were kind enough to interact with each other in front of my camera and look good doing it.  I'm in their debt.