Thursday, March 31, 2011

Photo Shoot Out-Takes

So, originally, we had planned this to be a blooper blog entry, but after reviewing the photos I had planned to post, it seems like they're more out-takes than actual bloopers.  Every photo shoot comes with its own unique energy and fun: in the case of my shoot with Jen, this frequently manifested as goofiness, some of which I'll be sharing in this post.  Since this is a dual post but most of the pictures will be provided by yours truly (Haley, btw), Jen and I will be providing commentary on each picture.

I have to preface this first set with a bit of background.  Jen and I had just arrived at our local, downtown park, Big Spring. We had begun our photo shoot and just gotten warmed up, when we noticed that we were being followed . . . stalked, even.  And who might this creeper be, you ask?  None other than this most viciously loathsome, wholly nefarious, and foully devious . . .

Archie the Evil Duck
. . . duck.  Just look at him! With his black and beady eyes, red-stained face.  Clearly, this duck was up to no good.  Also, I didn't care for the way he was eyeing Jen.  I mean, yes, she's the hotness, but it's just plain rude to stare at someone's ankles for so long.

So, here we were walking along the bridge, taking photographs, and generally frolicking when Jen's stalker duck arrived.  However, not ones to be daunted by an air of bad intentions, Jen and I fought back, and here you find our results:

Archie the Evil Duck on the Approach

Haley:  Here we witness Archie, the evil duck, as he approaches.  Jen gives him a glare, but it does not appear to affect his swaggering waddle.

Jen: I was suspicious of Archie (if that is his real name) from the start.  Currently working in a corporate environment, I am used to stares and gawks, but back in 2009, I was an innocent college graduate, thinking the world was void of stalker ducks and filled with rainbows, unicorns, and history teaching jobs.  Oh, how Archie proved me very, very wrong.

Archie the Evil Duck Fails at Nonchalance
Haley:   In this next shot, we witness the Archie's devious attempt to convince us that he is merely passing by.  However, notice that Jen is not so easily fooled, and the two exchange a loaded look. *cue tumbleweed*

Jen: As I stared into his dark, beady eyes, I could see the hunger there.  Steeling up my energy against such lecherous behavior, I attempted to rise above his lowbrow, ducky presence and continue on with my model-y duties.  But, the cold-blooded glares exchanged merely foreshadowed what was to come.

Archie the Evil Duck Returns
Haley:  This shot was taken towards the end of our time in the park.  We had lost Archie the Evil Duck sometime during our meandering photo journey and thought ourselves safe.  When Jen and I spotted our stalker once more.

Jen: Yeah, he's kind of a bastard.

Archie the Evil Duck Gets Nervous
Haley: After some debate, Jen and I settled on a plan of attack: stalk the Archie the Evil Duck in return. Note Archie's nervous glance toward camera.

Jen: Read: Haley made Jen approach the duck.  However, I came to realize that such a method of attack might actually work, and I stalked back in such a way that instilled fear into every Muscovy duck in the downtown Huntsville area.

Besides, I happen to have graduated summa cum laude from Stalker University, having achieved the highest marks in Stalking 101.

Archie the Evil Duck Flees
Haley: In face of our dual assault, Archie the Evil Duck flees.  After all, Jen is quite intimidating. *nods head*

Jen: It's true.  After two years, no duck has dared approach me.  I believe I'm on their Do Not Stalk list.  Note Archie's craven stance as he flees my regal and awe-inspiring presence, shoulders slumped in defeat and submission.  Actually, this technique does not apply solely to ducks; many a coworker have acted in the same way when I use this tactic to stave away creepiness.  It's not just a tactic, but IT'S A WAY OF LIFE.

If you get anything out of this post other than a few chuckles, hopefully it is this: outtakes and bloopers can be a fun series of their own, even though they're probably not the spotlight-gorgeous shots that you'll feature in a portfolio.  And, honestly?  They can be among the most enjoyable pictures you take/model for.

See you guys Friday!

Monday, March 28, 2011

It Don't Matter if You're Black [and] White

Augh, my brain.  Things have been a bit hectic 'round here, but this blog is a nice, relaxing outlet for my snark and photo skillz.  Just...don't expect too much snark in this post, mainly because I haz teh dumbs.  I don't really know why I preface the actual post with how drained/stressed I am--as if I really need to apologize for it--but, since I usually ache for approval, that's just how it's going to be.  (Ohgod, ohgod, ohgod, you think I'm a flake; PLEASE LIKE ME.)

Although we discussed the relationship between color and light, this week's posts center more on the opposite: the effects of lighting without the backing of color.  Black and white photography is, of course, a classic theme, but there are many reasons for this:  1.) well-established lighting can be more dramatic without color; 2.) certain moments can become more powerful through the use of black and white; 3.) it's really fun, etc.  Black and white photography, of course, can be particularly tricky; to use black and white photography effectively, the blacks must be the richest blacks and the whites the most pristine whites, all the while running the risks of over- or under-exposure.

Black and white photography is treacherous.  Tread softly, else it eat you alive.  Just imagine your tiny, useless legs flailing about while your top half is engulfed by the B&W Monster's mult-fanged gaping maw.

Of course, if you stroke it just right, the B&W Monster will be your friend.

Teazer in Action - Athens, AL (Dec. 2010)
Take, for instance, this photo.  I did the B&W Monster some (entirely legal) favors, and he came through for me.  My cat, Teazer, is a neurotic Jabba the Hutt of a cat--but she's a sweetie and kind of redeems herself by being a decent feline model.  I managed to get this shot of her while she was shaking her head, but the shot turned out well enough that the action actually suited the frame's composition.  Shot originally in black and white, the lack of saturation seems to emphasize the shake of her head, and the shadow beneath Teazer's chin provides the appropriate dark balance for the cat's white chest and whiskers.  The blacks of her eyes also displays the eyes' slant, caused by the abrupt motion of the cat's head.  Thus, the balance between the darks and lights, along with the lack of color, places emphasis on Teazer's movement and makes it the focus of the photo.

Self Portrait (Feb. 2011)
I'm a bit hesitant about this next photo, as it is a self portrait.  I'm not particularly concerned that you, our lovely reader(s), know(s) what I look like, but I do, in the age of social networking shots-from-above-duck-face profile pictures, sometimes question the validity of a self portrait used for an artistic study.  (I will make an argument in support for well done self portraits in a future post, but I do want to make clear that I do view it as a sensitive issue.)  However, this particular photo harkens back to my statement about lighting and black and white photography: notice the rich, black background, whose shadows engulf the model's hair and surrounds the face, while the face itself reflects the available light--providing a counterbalance to the powerful black.  The eyebrows, pupils, and shirt at the bottom corner of the picture also compliment the otherwise-white face.  The face's angle provides further interest to the photo, which the lighting captures well.  The fact that the face seems almost disconnected from the neck because of the intense shadows further adds a dramatic addition to the photo.  Had this picture been left in its original state as a colored photo, the shadows would not have been nearly as intense, the lighting wouldn't have been as effective, and the composition itself had the potential to fall flat.  So, good job, black and white--you done good with that thar desaturatin', y'all.

Dogwood Blossom - Athens, AL (Mar. 2011)
In direct contrast to the self portrait, this photo of a solitary dogwood blossom (everything is in full bloom here--ACHOO) focuses more on the blossom's highlights, particularly the whites of the flower itself.  Though the branches provide the shadows necessary for a successful black and white photograph, it's really white's show, here.  Taking advantage of natural midday light, the blossom reflects the light, though the photograph's angle prevents the subject from becoming over-exposed, a common problem when practicing in black and white (I admit, I do have this problem at times).  The highlights emphasize the singleness of the dogwood blossom, along with the neutral grey background that further makes the highlights pop.  The bottom-most branch also presents a nice, vertical line that cuts through the greys and balances out the highlights by catching the viewer's eye.  Ultimately, this shot further displays how light--in this case, highlights--makes the photo more appealing and the blossom more striking, which is a main factor of a black and white photograph's success.

I'm currently thinking that I will make black and white photography another future mini-study, like my texture study.  That would be fun, and it will also be beneficial when considering contrast, lighting, and how to deal with certain scenarios without the safety net of color.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Color and Light Remix

Well, phooey. I completely spaced last night's posting.  I blame being exhausted, cooking dinner, and having a new game for my birthday.  (Yeah, so the last one had a lot to do with it... eh heh heh.) But, I have a peace offering that comes in the form of a super-awesome post on color and light in nature photography and portraiture with lots of pretty pictures. Yep! *nods head*

So, color and light. I have found that these two elements are inextricably linked in photography (and, indeed, in nature as last Wednesday's post illustrated).  The presence of light, or lack thereof, in a photograph determines the colors, shades and hues available to the eye in any given piece. As the type of lighting varies, so too does the type of color that appears. But enough lecturing, let's jump in to some examples.

Miss Beazer in the Garden, June 2008
This first picture is similar to that of Jen's post:  the lighting creates a certain uniformity of color throughout the photography.  In this case, there is a blue shading to the entire photo.  This photo was taken on a late summer morning of a very overcast day.  The lack of a direct light source coupled with the grayish cast of the clouds has created the blue lighting we see.  Compositionally speaking, I love this photograph, but lighting-wise, it's probably not the greatest ever.  However, I enjoy the affect that the blue light has on the colors in this photograph.  It softens many of the harsher colors while enhancing some of the softer ones.  For example, the pine mulch is actually a rather vibrant brown, and the cat's fur was a very rich dark brown.  However, the lighting softens these colors and makes them stand out less against the background than they otherwise would.  Meanwhile, the greens of the stems of the flowers and the grass like dianthus in the foreground, which would typically be a paler, sagey, gray-green, appear to be a much darker, almost jade-like color when blended with the blue light.

Cardinal Flower, August 2008
Bam! Pow! Zap! In stark contrast to the softening effect of the above picture, this photograph illustrates how lighting can create bolder colors and add vibrancy. When this was taken, the sun was slightly behind and above the flower on a very sunny afternoon.  The angle creates a slight glowing effect in the upper petals of the flower and the leaf running across the upper section of the photo.  This is enhanced by the fact that the angle of light casts the bottom of the flowers and stem in shadow while highlighting the rest of the plant. An already colorful flower, the sunlight enhances the vibrancy of the red so that it jumps out of the photograph. Also, the pale yellow-green of the foliage, which is ordinarily fairly flat in color, becomes a screamingly vibrant green that contrasts and sets off the red cardinal flowers quite nicely.

But enough with all this... nature, let's move on to portraiture.  First, a small note about my style of photography within this genre.  In her Monday post, Jen makes a distinction between posed and unposed portraiture.  My style falls somewhere in between.  On the one hand, during a typical photo shoot the model is very much aware that I'm taking her picture, and thus we can hardly call the result candid.  However, when conducting a photo shoot, I tend to let the model wander and "pose" naturally and as she see fits.  This creates a much more natural looking photograph.  Why is this important to the topic at hand, you ask?  Because it means that as a photographer, I'm rarely thinking about composition as I photograph (that just comes somewhat naturally), and this means that light and color just sort of happen.  As Jen said in her post, the photographer is left to take advantage of awesome lighting when it comes up. This is perhaps why I tend to prefer natural lighting to staged.
It's Magic on a Covered Bridge

And now for some completely happenstance lighting awesomeness.  I know, right?  This photo was taken around May and is from the first photo shoot I ever did.  Aside from being a favorite, I chose this picture because it so nicely complements Jen's green canopied photo in Monday's post. This was definitely a case where I recognized great lighting when I saw it, and directed Rachel (the model pictured) to stand in the pool of light.  Despite the similar composition of this photo, it in some ways is a reversal of Jen's photo.  This photograph features a dark constructed pathway that lead out into nature.  And, rather than a dark figure popping out of the picture, a colorful one is highlighted amongst the darker tones.  I love the variety of light in this photo as well.  The light softly filters through the wooden cover in the foreground before flooding Rachel in brilliant light.  The light completely covers her lower body, preventing us from seeing anything else, before enhancing the vibrancy of her red shirt.

But, alas, it is time to bid you adieu.  Seriously, before I post about a dozen more photos to this blog.  Perhaps Jen and I should do a black and white week next week to contrast this one.  What say you, Jen?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Links and Such for a Showery Wednesday

Jen: Related to Monday's post, here are a few links that are making me happy this week concerning color and light.  First on the list is the clip to the actual song "Color and Light," from the live recording of Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George, performed by Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters. 

On an only slightly related note, check out NPR's The Picture Show blog.  Besides featuring consistently excellent articles that feature impressive photographs, it also presents a few posts dealing with, you guessed it, color and light.  This one deals more with color, but it sort of reminds me of ye olde Impressionist paintings.  (Well, not all, not really--well, I guess I'm only talking about picture four.)  (Okay, the art enthusiast in me has to admit that most of them resemble more of early twentieth-century styles.)  (All right, I don't know what I'm talking about.)  If you like color and liquor, you'll enjoy this article.

Also, take a look at this article for a couple of extraordinary snow photos.  The top and bottom pictures display what I attempted to convey with Monday's post (the middle one is purdy, too).  If you like what you see there, I suggest also taking a look at these photographers' Flickr sites, which the blog provides in the captions.

That's it on my end!  Have a good evening.

Haley: So, here I am, rather late having had to sit out a tornado siren and collect cats.  I must say that I'm a bit at a loss as to what to write today, even with Jen having done the hard work of starting the post and choosing a topic.  Le sigh.

Okay, let's see... color and light... (*cracks knuckles and wiggles fingers*).  I suppose I'll begin with something I find fairly interesting.  In her post on Monday, Jen discussed the product of the combined efforts of color and light and how the two naturally go together.  So, here is a (somewhat simplified) scientific explanation of how color and light are indeed naturally linked.  Pretty spiffy.

But anyway, on to the really fun stuff - books! *pushes glasses up nose*  These two books are both on my wish list, having thumbed through them both.  The first is Practical Artistry: Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers.  This book has a fairly extensive section on using lighting and various techniques and, more importantly, some truly awesome photographs. Next, we have Digital Lighting & Rendering. I've selected this book because it contains extensive chapters on light and also has a really good chapter each on color and shadows.

Aaaaaannnnnnd... yeah.  That's about it for our Wednesday post.  Enjoy, and join me on Friday for my post on color and light in portraiture and nature photography, using available lighting sources.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Color and Light

Well, it looks like the blog has gotten off to a pretty decent start, for two people who don't really know what they're doing.  (Just kidding.  We do.  I think.)  Once Haley and I iron out what's working, what needs improvement, and what absolutely rocks, we'll start publicizing SLP more on das Internets and locally in Huntsville.  I may (cough) even get a logo up and running (cough).  Regardless, we'll let you, our faithful reader(s), know of any publicity stunts we do, be they on Facebook, Twitter, or some combination of Twitbook.

Anyway, this week's posts center on color, light, and, moreover, how light affects the colors of certain photographs.  My post deals more with the role of light and color in unposed portraiture, while Haley's writeup will center more on her areas of expertise.

So, let's begin with a musical.

Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George, 1984, is what comes to mind when contemplating the role of color and light in certain photographs.  In his song, "Color and Light" (Hey!  What a coincidence!), the artist George Seurat sings:

Color and light.
There's only color and light.
Yellow and white.
Just blue and yellow and white.
Look at the air, miss-
See whet I mean?
No, look over there, miss-
That's done with green...
Conjoined with orange...

Throughout the musical, Sondheim's Seurat obsesses over the role of color and light, along with how these two elements make art a living, breathing creation.  Seurat surrounds himself with the idea of color and light,  with the notion that light greatly influences the power of color and vice versa.  These beliefs are reflected in his major work, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884–1886), which relies on the eye's understanding of the combined efforts of these two elements.

Crystal - Sloss Furnace, Birmingham, AL (Sept. 2010)
Though there is much, much more to the musical than that little blurb, my brain farted and thus got rid of the college constipation of literary analysis (I love LA, so I'm not really bashing it).  However, let's take what I did summarize and apply it to some of my (*beams*) images.  Simply put, light does influence the color, along with many other aspects, of a photo.  Take, for instance, this shot at Sloss Furnace, Birmingham, AL.  This particular lighting at once washes out and emphasizes the pinks and yellows that dominate the composition, creating a soft, delicate atmosphere. Because of the soft--and, as you see, stark--lighting, the model's dress, skin, and corset share a common pink, which is also visible in the concrete.  Additionally, the glow the lighting produces also affects the model's golden hair, giving her an almost ethereal persona.  Because of her pose (I basically let her go free reign on the posing, and she was unaware I was taking this shot at all) and how the midday light centered on her and scattered over the ground, I was able to get a striking photo.  Had the model been in the shadow, the shot may have been okay, but it would have lacked the life the color and light bring.

Looking at the Geese - Green Mountain, Huntsville, AL (Jul. 2009)
The following photos also demonstrate the roles of light and color, and how effectively these two work together to create striking photographs in unstaged portraiture.  In my personal experience as an amateur photographer, I've enjoyed utilizing color and light throughout the years; sometimes, through a fluke shot of awesomeness, and other times through planned perfection (hee, alliteration always absolutely amuses me).  I'm horribly laid back as far as photographers are concerned, but it's worked for me thus far, and it will continue to work.  This shot of Heather and Declan at Green Mountain was indeed a fluke shot.  As I recall, Heather was explaining turtles to her son, and suddenly a legion of geese were gliding on the water below.  I quickly snapped the shot, giggled at my evil glee, and then realized that the lighting did a wonderful job at emphasizing the bright yellows and greens of their apparel and the natural background.  Fluke?  Yes.  But the ability to take advantage of that fluke it also very important to understanding the relationship between color and light, as being able to notice the intricacies between the two lends to more opportunities.

Wandering in Gruenewald, Berlin, Germany (May 2008)
This next one is the first in a series of People Walking Away from the Camera, but it is also yet another example of how light and color play nicely with one another.  (It's a little-known fact that those two were established enemies in preschool.)  It's also an example of planned lighting--not that I have any control whatsoever of the weather (though wouldn't that beat all?), but I recognized the lighting when I saw it and thus acted accordingly.  The light "freckles" its way from the model's feet to the almost blinding flood of light in the foreground, which the path's pattern emphasizes.  The almost overwhelming greens practically encase the model, but he remains visible because of his place in the shadows (unlike our first example).  The light's glow emphasizes the greens, and the greens emphasize the foreground's pool of light.  Much like Sondheim's Seurat, the photo seems to live and breath color and light, and their harmony makes all three photos visually interesting.  Like skittles.

There really is a lot more to be said on this theme, along with more color and light studies to be done.  Besides, I've been horribly lax on the snark factor in this post, which needs to be rectified.  Regardless, I expect to post much more on varying topics concerning this theme, such as shadow play, (effective) overexposure, etc., etc.  I look forward to it.  You should, too.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Textures a la Haley

In keeping with Jen's Monday post on texture photographs, I've decided to investigate texture in my own work.  However, this will be quite the different post from Jen's, since texture is not something I often actively seek out when I have a camera in my hand.  Also, my still life photography is limited, as again, it's not usually my thing.  Thus, this post will be less of the texture study that Jen's post was and more of texture quest.  So break out your coconuts and follow me as I find textures in my existing photos and contemplate it's affect and overall contribution to the photo.  *clippity clop clippity clop*

Ruby Slipper
Okay, so I lied; I do, in fact, have a still life photograph that emphasizes texture.  This was taken shortly after I received my latest camera, a Sony Cybershot 1080 (who, le gasp, lacks a name and is thus exceedingly jealous of Jen's Ernst), which has a fantastic macro setting if you have a steady hand.  In fact, I tend to shoot most of my photos in macro as I find it adds a detailed clarity.  

But to return to the photo at hand, this is one of, maybe, three photos I've taken in which I was actively including texture as part of my compositional thought process.  I really loved the contrast between the textures of the satin ribbon detail and the suede body of the slipper. The shine of the satin fabric as well as the visible lines of its weave enable us to visualize the feel of the ribbon - it's odd duality of smooth and rough.  Meanwhile the suede seems so much smoother and softer compared to the boldness of the ribbon.  The ribbon stands out more in the composition, which subtly enhances the texture of the suede by contrast.  This photo relies on the texture of the fabrics to become visually interesting.  Without the texture, the shoe would become a drab and boring subject, failing to stand out in any significant way.  The photo might still have been nice, but it is the texture that elevates the photo from nice to good.

Seagreen Shells
And now for something completely different!  Shells.  I love shells.  The beach is nice, but shells are my real favorite.  That's what inspired me to take this shot on a trip to Gulf Shores in December of 2009. One of my favorite aspects of this picture is the color; the seagreen tones really pop out of the photograph.  Color tends to attract my photographic eye when taking pictures.  And yet, when I gave this picture a second look, I see that a lot of what makes it visually interesting is texture.  The rough, lined backs of the shells contrasts with the shiny smoothness of the colored interior.  It sets up points of dueling interest that engage the viewers eye for a longer period of time.  The rough, almost sharp edges of the shells also add to the natural and organic feel of the photograph, making me want to run my fingers through the bin of shells all over again.

Then there are pictures where texture is not particularly obvious at all, like this one:  

Seagull and the Surf
This is an example of my partiality to nature photography.  When taking this shot I was thinking about not disturbing the bird, timing the photo according to waves, and capturing a shot of the gull with its head down to the water.  

One of my favorite aspects of this photo is the layers it contains.  Our eyes move from the foreground, to level with the birds feet, to the first line of the receding surf, to the larger line of the sea lapping at the beach.  But, when I was sorting through my photo archives with texture in mind, I realized that texture plays an extensive role in this shot.  What distinguishes the different layers if not the texture of the foam of the sea?  First, we have the tiny, distributed bubbles of the foreground.  This is followed by the slightly larger bubbles (almost like soap on hands) of the second layer. And lastly, we reach the foamy froth of the final layer and the rolling water of the sea behind it. 

While I doubt that texture studies will ever hold the fascination for me that it does for Jen, thinking about how texture can passively add to any photograph has certainly made me look at my work a little differently.  I find new appreciation alongside some old favorites.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How We Got Into Photography

Treatsy time!  You get to learn a little more about the blog's maintainers--at least in the sense of how Haley and Jen got into photography.  In addition to providing a bit more background information about us, the reader will, hopefully, understand the reasons behind how we approach photography in the ways that we do.

St. Paul's Cathedral and Bomb Damage - V-E Day, 1945
Jen:  The simplest way to put it is that I took a couple of photography classes during my last two years in high school.  There isn't really a long, involved process in how I initially grew interested photography other than the fact that I thought taking such a class with our flaky art teacher would be fun.  However, these high school classes actually did open my (critical) eyes--especially concerning composition, contrast, and color (the three C's...well, four, if you count the unintentional alliteration).  As I became increasingly interested in photography, I became increasingly interested in my maternal grandfather's occupation as a World War II photographer.

London Fish Market - 1945

I almost hate to admit it, but it really wasn't until then that I knew (or, er, remembered) the details of my grandfather's work.  Having died when I was age two, I didn't know Grandpa other than the many, many amusing stories regarding his eccentric character.  Looking back through his photographs, however, I realized that Grandpa's work--and these are mainly candid, unofficial photographs--were pretty damn good.  And since the photos really do speak for themselves, I won't go into detail about them--just take them in.

If I'm honest with myself, I hold Grandpa's talent as a form of encouragement: apart from inheriting a bit of his silliness, I also credit/blame his darned old genes for my interest in this art form.  Apart from just being good photos, many of Grandpa's works reflect parts of history--they capture a moment, no matter how small, and persevere through time.  If I am able to accomplish just a teeny bit of that through my amateur photography, I'll be a happy puppy.
Oh, and just one more photo:

Yup.  We're definitely related.

Stairs at Castle Frankenstein,
Darmstadt, Germany, November 1991
Haley:  Well, unlike Jen, I can't really pinpoint any particular inspiration for my interest in photography.  I don't remember a time when it wasn't an interest except, perhaps, early childhood.  My first cameras, naturally, were little disposable ones bought on vacations.  I remember a vacation to the Smoky Mountains that yielded some of the first photographs I would (and still do) consider to be good.  I also vaguely remember possessing some sort of cheap film camera at one point or another.  

Like Jen, some of my photographic background has been influenced by my family.  I grew up around a lot of photography.  We have numerous and enormous family photo albums filled with photos (of varying embarrassment levels *grumble grumble*bathtime*grumble*) taken by both my parents.  One of my favorite things to do when I was bored as a child was to break these out and study all the pictures. I'd post one, but I must again cite the potential for embarrassment.  My mother is quite artistic, and my father, I know, has had an interest in photography for quite some time.  Though, I didn't know quite how much until I was shown some of his photography recently (see above). 

My uncle, mother, and aunt ca. 1957
But overall, I would say the influence is not particularly overt.  It's simply that I've always been exposed, not just to photography, but good photography for most of my life.  Or, perhaps my awesomesaucemness (see Jen, aside from modesty, what really allows one to wordsmith is a degree in English, not military publishing) is genetics.  My maternal grandfather, was quite the amateur photographer:  he even had a dark room in his basement.  I don't have any samples of some of his truly excellent work at hand, but suffice to say he was quite good. I mean, even the candid family photos he took were pretty darn spiffy.

My aunt, uncle, and mother
All told, I have to credit my all around, incredibly artistic family for my own natural tendencies.  I think that being exposed to so much creativity and in particular this medium, has influenced my own tastes and abilities.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Mayhem: Tantalizing Textures

Never let me use alliterative titles again.  Ever.

So, let's lay out the current plan for SLP's post schedule: we will/should post every Monday, Wednesday, Friday.  I, Jen, will post Mondays, and Haley will post Fridays.  Wednesdays are kind of up in the air at the moment, but the intent is to provide a collaborative post based on a specific photography topic.  Excited?  Of course you are.  Or just pretend you are.

That means you, the viewer, will be able to bask in the splendor of...oh, whatever, I'm tired and need to post.

This Monday's post deals with a study that I'm currently doing: textures.  I'm not really sure why I started doing texture studies, but I did, and the great thing is I get to write a blog post about it.  What had been a silly little pastime in between exciting naps and even more exciting Internet surfing over a lazy Sunday has now developed into a interesting way to develop my attention to detail, along with composition, lines, and how to make seemingly "uninteresting" objects (if such things do exist), such as a cat toy, into something visually curious.

Texture Study: Feather (Feb. 2011)
  The first current study I did concerned the aforementioned cat toy, a feathery little thing that my cat has never played with (aside: if you've seen my Jabba the Hutt of a cat, you'd glean she'd never actually exerted any energy other than meowing at the food bowl).  I had only been puttering around with the camera--named Ernst, by the way--, but I became increasingly more focused on the subject's own detail as I continued to fiddle around with Ernst's settings.  Upon snapping this extreme close-up, I noticed that, aside from the toy's vibrant colors, the texture itself was an intriguing subject, with its lines lending to the feathers' softness.  This brings me to the main point of this post, actually, as many good texture photographs should visually portray the feel of the object while retaining a good composition.  In this photo, the feathers look soft while also remaining aesthetically interesting through use of their fluid lines and the balance of sharpness and blurriness.  Although color is a large focus of a picture like this, the texture of the object causes the toy to stand out.

Texture Study: Purse (Feb. 2011)
Of course, some texture studies are constructed in such a way that it's sometimes difficult to tell exactly the object's identity, which can lend more...interestingness (oh, shut up; I can make up words if I want to because I edit military documents*) to the overall photo.  As seen with this purse study, we know that the texture has something to do with fabric because of the object's visual feel--but the fact that this is a purse doesn't really mean much.  The different directions of the lines within the fabric's squares lends a harsher feel than, say, the cat toy's soft feathers, while also giving the eye a maze of geometric shapes with which to contend.  The overall curvature of the bag also lends interest to the photo's composition, giving the object's visual texture a rough, yet still soft, feel.

Besides, I just like it.

*I don't know why editing military documents gives me permission to invent words, but it does, and I feel very empowered by this.

Texture Study: Blanket (March 2011)
Generally, texture adds an extra dimension to a photo and can contribute substantially to a photo's success.  For instance, if the detail on my grandmother's crocheted blanket, pictured left, had not been as sharp, the overall composition wouldn't really be all that interesting.  However, being able to see the individual stitches in the foremost square allows the blanket to pop out of the photo and looks cozy enough to touch (please don't; apart from "grawr-it's-my-blanket," you'll only muss up your computer screen).  Although it isn't the most captivating photo, it seems to establish a sense of comfort and warmth to the viewer, like most blankets have a habit of doing.  Perhaps that's my own sentiment (although it's kind of a scratchy blanket), but the point is that I can feel the blanket's texture just by looking at the photo.  And that's kind of cool, I suppose.

Using texture to your advantage, be it in portraiture, nature, etc., can transform an otherwise pleasant photograph into something that stands out from the rest, and I've discovered that conducting texture studies causes me to more critically examine texture in more and more photo opportunities.  It's fun.  It's a learning experience.  And it may just save the world.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Another Introduction

Well, hello and welcome.

Following Haley's lead, I suppose now would be a good time to introduce myself: I'm Jen, the second half of SLP, and it's very nice to meet you (and all that rot; get off my lawn; wait, who are you again?).  Like Haley, I have been into photography for several years, and, though it remains an amateur hobby of mine, I always try to learn new things when behind the camera and develop whatever skills I have while genuinely enjoying the hobby.  It will never pay the bills, but that's what soul-sucking corporate jobs are for.  I'll take quality photos when if I go postal.

Since Haley did a lovely job with her introductory post, I'll attempt to mimic her structure--starting with a couple of my favorite photos in two of my areas of focus.  To provide a bit of background, I tend to focus on certain types of photography, though these fluctuate over time.  For example, most of my portfolio consist of travel photography taken while I lived in Europe.  I also have a knack for finding seemingly uninteresting items and giving them their very own artistic (er, hipster) photograph, focusing on intricate detail to make the picture pop.  Other areas include: un-staged portraiture, nature, texture, and under-saturated-look-I'm-so-artistic-and-SAD photography.  I also like to manipulate my photos in, you guessed it, Photoshop.

Forced sarcasm set aside, I present you with two of my favorite photos (there are many others, and, dammit, it's hard to narrow them down).  They are not the best photos I've taken, but there is something about them that draws me to them again and again, either examining what makes them good pictures or critiquing their negative traits.

The Downs - Hassocks, England (March 2010)
This particular photo, taken at The Downs in Hassocks, England, displays many types of photography: travel, un-staged portraiture, black and white, etc.  It was taken on my last day in Hassocks that March when I had visited my relatives for the first time, so the picture also has a sentimental value for me.  However, what makes this photo interesting (to me) is its stark contrast between the women's coats and the cloud-ridden sky; the lines of the rightmost woman's outreaching arm, the fences, and the sloping hills; and the natural poses of the women, huddled together against the chill wind of a bleak, early spring day.  For me, it is an accurate portrayal of one of my favorite places in the world: the tranquil Downs of cozy Hassocks.

The photo is not without its faults, of course.  The overcast day makes it difficult to find a happy medium between over- and under-exposure, and the composition of the piece may not hold everyone's attention.  But, I do believe it's a good example of seizing the moment and making snap (hee, pun intended) judgments based on the opportunity (in this case, shooting a photo of two unaware strangers) at hand.  Haley explained the process very well in the previous post, so please refer to that entry for a better description.

Frozen Buds - Athens, AL (January 2011)
Though this is a very recent photo, I count it among my favorites because 1.) it's a good photo, 2.) I took it with my shiny Canon Rebel T2 DSLR, and 3.) OH MY GOD, IT ACTUALLY SNOWED REAL, MANLY SNOW IN ALABAMA.  I am fond of the absolute clarity of this photo, from the individual crystals of snow to the buds' razor-sharp edges.  The photo's composition was more or less carefully planned out beforehand and through trial and error, and I think it paid off.  The foremost buds are, of course, the most in-focus, but the mid-range and, finally, the blurred branch in the background provide an interesting line throughout the photo.  Though it was an overcast day (I promise I have bright and colorful photos, as you will see in future blog posts), this fact actually was in my favor in this situation, as the grey background contrasts nicely with the brown, dead buds and the crisp, white snow.  It reminds me of exactly how winter is supposed to feel: silent, lonely, and beautiful.

I will say, though, that nature photography is not my strongest suite.  Haley's Redbuds photo is one of the finest examples of nature photography between our two portfolios, and my repertoire in that area does not compare to hers.  However, it is on my list of Things to Improve, and I look forward to further developing my nature shots.

Phew.  There we have it; two of my favorite photos as an introduction to my work.  It's interesting to be blogging again, and I look forward to many more updates and tutorials.  So, welcome to the SLP blog.

...Maybe one day I'll create us a real-life logo and banner.  H-heh.

An Introduction

Jen and I have finally decided to get our act in gear about actually writing our blog (as opposed to staring at the pretty background).  We have been busily brainstorming about blog post topics and have settled on beginning with an introductory post a piece.

It was fairly difficult to select a photo to be the focus of this post.  I knew I wanted one that could introduce me and my photography, but which one?  I've been addicted to my camera for years now, so I have thousands of photographs to choose from.  Even when choosing from favorites, it was hard to narrow the options down.  Finally, after some discussion with Jen, I decided to choose two favorite photos that represent the styles of photography I am most drawn to: nature photography and portraiture. And so, without further rambling

Redbud Blossoms
Yeah, that's right.  This is easily one of my best photographs, and it's also one of those I think of when asked for an example of my work.

I took this in the front yard of my father's house in early March of 2009.  The Redbud tree typifies spring in a lot of ways for me, heralding the season much as the daffodils do.  I love photographing flowers, so much so that it's hard for me to resist a flower if I have a camera at hand.

I tend to more consciously think about composition when focusing on nature photography than I do when taking portraits. I think that can definitely be seen here.  The angle of this photo is designed to make it seem as if the branch is coming towards the viewer. At the same time the branch continues past the frame, positioning the audience within the branches rather than viewing them from afar.

This picture is also very much about contrast for me, which is something I enjoy playing with in photography.  I love how the rough texture of the branch sits up against the delicacy of the clustered blossoms and the blur of the background that swoops down into the smooth clarity of the foreground. And of course, there's the most obvious contrast of color.  This to me enhances the vibrancy of springs first blooms, which are so often found in the stark landscape leftover from winter.  This latter example of contrast was achieved via the technique of color isolation and using Adobe Photoshop.  I'm a big fan of this technique, especially in nature photography, and this is one of my best examples of it.  However, as much as I love the results, I must admit that the process itself can be frustratingly tedious.

As for portraiture, I knew from the moment I decided to post such a picture it would be from the photo-shoot of awesomeness that I did with Jen.

I adore this picture!  There were so many great shots of Jen from that photo-shoot, but this one really captures her essence.  She's sunny, joyous and beautiful.

When shooting portraits I tend to think less obviously about composition, which becomes split second judgements that translate into direction.  Jen is one of my favorite models, because it comes very naturally to her once she gets comfortable. Even then portraiture can be truly difficult; the photographer has so much to consider in this situation. I had to keep Jen at her ease while directing her, taking good shots and worrying about lighting, etc. It's beyond important to have a good rapport with the model, which, since Jen is one of my bestest friends, I certainly have.

The light is one of my favorite aspects of this shot.  It seems to hit Jen perfectly, which is funny actually, since lighting was originally one of the things I had to fix in this photo.  To start, there was a sort of colorless wash of light over the whole photo. But, after some really minor editing I was able tweak the light, contrast and color saturation to get the glowing effect I wanted.

So, I hope that gives everyone an idea of my photography.  I really look forward to posting and playing with photos on here and sharing the creativity around. Haley out. (And yes, I really am that much of a super-nerd).