Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer Is Online

Meg had hung up up laundry in the back yard and when I saw Leah's orange dress hanging up I had to take some photos. At first it was in the shade and facing the other way, but those are things I can control. 

Leah's dress that she wore on the first sunny day after the solstice, drying on the line
ISO 200  45mm  f/4.0  1/250 sec

I'm actually sitting on the ground with the camera almost set in the grass, as it's a 90mm-equivalent and the clothesline doesn't hang that high. It was worth the wet bum, and it was a fun break from cleaning the grout in the kitchen floor.

What's fun about this is that it was exactly what I wanted to get. I saw the dress and thought that it was so summery, so all I needed to do was get it in the sun with a blurred green and blue background. I put the lens on the camera, went outside, made a couple adjustments, and voila. It took about 5 min total.

Still Life...on a Challenge!

Okay, by "challenge" I mean one of the photo challenges on dpreview, but I'm a very competitive person and I do my best with an audience. So, I decided to enter a photo on the topic of scotch whiskey. In addition I've been inspired lately by some of the work of John Hedgecoe. I highly recommend his book How to Take Great Photographs. I found it used at a store, but it's not expensive new.

First off, I love scotch with all of my body. I've had the fortune to drink some excellent scotch, and my liquor cabinet is well stocked, so the easy part was getting the props. I looked at the other entries and saw a few that were excellent, but there wasn't much breadth to them. I don't have the flashes or studio to make a great product shot, but I thought that if I grabbed a bottle and glass and set them up somewhere in the house where I could control lighting that I might find a little creativity.

I really should have used my old compact camera to record the "studio" I created. I moved an oak end table into the bathroom, tilted the metal shade of a lamp (compact fluorescent bulb) as a sort of snoot, put that on top of a roll of TP (needed a little height) and started arranging things.

Note: TP rolls are not an effective light stand. I'll come back to that later.

I'll start with my best image, then talk about how I got there:
Tobermory 10-yr from the Isle of Mull
ISO 200  20mm  f/6.3  1.6 sec

I was using my 20mm 1.7, so light didn't need to be a big deal, but I wanted depth of field and was only using one light in the whole room, so all of my exposures were from 1.5-8 seconds. The tripod did the trick, but setting a 2-sec delay on the camera was good enough to eliminate the shake from my touching the shutter button. Who needs to pay for a remote release, huh? Other than that this was pretty darn vanilla. Aim the camera, focus, take a shot, adjust things, take another shot....

Technical stuff. Whatever. The fun part was using the light and the elements at hand. At first I was just arranging things to get good balance, but I saw that I could shine the light either through the bottle or the glass and create a neat effect, so I tried a number of arrangements that way, even not showing the bottle or glass at all. In the end this looked best to me and it is my challenge entry. Wish me luck.

The session ended when the lamp fell of the TP roll, made a huge crash, and I sat stunned waiting for Leah to wake up in her crib and start crying (she was only about 20-ft away, but there were two doors). Thankfully she didn't wake up, so I called it a night and enjoyed a very well earned scotch :)

Next time I do still life photography:
--I will take more photos! I wish I'd just hit the shutter more often
--I will pay more attention to the orientation of the objects, such as the label on the bottle
--I will pay more attention to the background, either adding more of keeping it totally neutral
--I will not put a lamp on something precarious

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Madison in a Photo

Madison is the capital of Wisconsin, the only major city in America built on a isthmus, birthplace of the progressive movement, home of an elite university, a flashpoint in the 60's revolution, a mid-sized city in the midst of rolling hills and farmland, and a bunch of other stuff. 'Nuff said. The people who live here make the city, but also mime this idea of their city - we feel the need to reaffirm our membership by being the things a Madisonian should be, and I don't think I'm an exception.

I'm really making a silly preamble to a photo, but bear with me.

Yesterday I headed to the Capitol Square to the Farmer's Market (the Midwest's largest!) to pick up my CSA share...and I brought my camera just in case I had an opportunity to use it. At the head of King St is the prime spot for all things Madison, and it's also where Driftless Organics sets up their stall, so I like to take at least a couple minutes to take things in, do a little shopping, meet friends, and observe those fascinating Madison people before I grab my veggies.

Here's what I saw:

Grannies for Peace performing at the Saturday Farmers Market
ISO 200  20mm  f/6.3  1/320 sec

--The Capitol dome, with statue (which has a badger on its head)
--"Grannies for Peace" performing songs, mostly protesting our craptastic Gov. Walker
--Flags of the State and Union
--Some dude dressed in officially licensed UW Badgers apparel
--A reminder that we have a sister city in Germany...for some reason
--The statue of Hans Christian Hess, who did something important in a war, I think

Admittedly this was more-or-less a snapshot. I lined it up so that the Capitol, Hans and the singers were balanced, and I think that worked. It's actually very close to the rule of thirds with only a minor crop, but that's at least 25% luck. Maybe I'm just getting some intuition :)

But what this photo means to me is that there's a quintessential Madison-ness that I revel in when I'm downtown. I love how the city has come alive now that we have something we all want to protest together. I love that we do this wearing Badger red, eating cheese curds and buying excellent produce from local producers. I'm proud of our heritage and the monuments we've built and I love looking at that dome.

I wish that the sky had been more interesting, as it really kills this picture. Oh, well. I'll be there again in 5.5 days and I'm sure that someone will be putting on a show.