Archive for May, 2011

>Almost Good

As promised, May Pole Dancers. I love this picture, it is so far from being a great shot but I can look at it and see where I captured the exact moment I wanted yet failed to expose the shot properly. Where to start? My aperture is way off, I was likely shooting f/8 here. I should have circled half way round the dance area so I would have a lawn and empty pavilion in my background, rather than a bunch of yokels in front of a shop. Also, had I moved I would not have ended up with that brilliant glare on everything in the upper left corner, the light would have been more even (everything would have been in shade with slight dappling) . Despite all of that (and a few other small issues) I love this shot.

I love the expression on her face, I love the movement of her skirt and legs, I love the colors of the dancer’s clothes. I love that I can try again this year with the knowledge that while I may not get THIS shot with better composition and exposure, I have a much better understanding of what to do to try and improve it.

>Things I’m Not Good At

>“Things I am not good at” could be a very long list indeed, but portraits tops my list of photography things I want to improve. This was an accidentally good shot, and I’m sure I had no idea what I was doing. I had just upgraded from my hand-me-down camera to the Powershot and had no clue how to use it properly. Indeed I think I’d had that camera for all of a month when I went on this trip. I suppose it just goes to show that if you take enough pictures you will incidentally get a good one here and there. I’m trying to improve my aim a little though.

I’m looking forward to the Bristol Faire this year in no small part because of the new camera and I get to practice my people picture taking skills on the massive hordes. As well as the falcons.

This is the acrobat group Barely Balanced, and quite possibly one of my favorite acts at the Faire.
One of the difficulties in getting a good shot of them is getting good seats where you don’t have to shoot over 10 rows of heads but aren’t too close to the action, since they do move about on the stage a fair bit. I’d also like to get a good shot of Casey breathing fire, but she only performs that trick once a day so it is a matter of luck for the most part.

I am hoping this year we’ll get to go more than once, since there is no possible way to catch all the shows much less the street theater in even 3 visits. I’d also like to catch some action down at the court, hopefully get there in time for some dancing (they may even perform a “scandalous” dance in which you can see the dancer’s stockinged ankles) as well as get some pictures of the convincingly creepy Archbishop.

I’d also like to retry my hand at photographing the May Pole dancers, to be discussed in tomorrow’s entry.

>Invasion of "Teh Cute"

>I have been invaded by “teh cute”. This is one of my two foster kittens, rescued from a high kill shelter with a dozen other kittens all slated from euthanasia, including a litter of 4 two week olds. The reason the shelter was going to euthanize? They were too young. Yes, that’s right, too YOUNG. This little girl is only 4 to 5 weeks old, staying in a shelter would have meant that she would grow poorly socialized and likely very sick from being in crowded conditions with other off-the-street cats, if she stayed healthy enough to grow up at all.
Thankfully groups like the one I foster for exist, to give these little ones (and big ones) a chance at a decent life.

Bonus, my new camera arrived today.
Already she and her sister have been the target of the new camera, talk about good timing! I’m terribly impressed with what it can do in “idiot auto mode” so I can’t wait to learn how to use it properly. I may have to invent a photo trip for the weekend, or I’ll just have to wait until the Memorial Day cookout to see what else I can do with it.


>I’ve been quiet for few days, working on a few things and trying to make some of my plans into reality.

Plan number one, I finally ordered a DSLR, a Canon 60D. Check. It should be here Wednesday.

I went back and forth for a long time on if I should get a pro-level camera or stick with a more mid-range beast. In the end I figure I’m never going to be famous or sell my work, so why not go mid-range and save a few bucks to put away for all those spiffy lenses I want?

Plan number two, foster kittens. Check. On Saturday two little 5 week old fuzz balls moved in to stay with me until they find homes.

Plan number three, find a charter boat 3 people can afford for a 5 hour trip. Fail. I suspect part of it is due to the cost of fossil fuels at the moment, the rest of it is due to the only size boats in our price range are fishing vessels who are all booked up for the season.

Plan number four, settle a date for the Fermi Lab trip. Fail, -ish. We’re getting closer.

Plan number five, post-rapture looting. Fail, if only because the rapture didn’t happen.

Plan number six, set date for the first Gary Indiana Drag Queen photo shoot. Check. Brace yourselves for some hilarity at the end of next month.

Actually, to briefly address the Gary shoot, Misty Meaner’s partner has expressed concern for Misty’s safety during the shoot. He was a little surprised when I wasn’t very concerned, if only for the fact that Gary is a virtual ghost town at this point and most of the shoot will be inside. Also, I have Mace and a pair of buddies capable of defending themselves. I really don’t foresee any problems with the locals, they’re so used to photographers with their models at this point that I doubt it’ll be an issue.

One of the bonus points of this trip is I’ll have both cameras, and will be able to compare their performance. Until I get a decent wide angle lens I plan on hanging on to my old camera just for that aspect.

The Wild Life

>Last summer I had the privileged of taking a road trip to Yellowstone National Park with my father. Well, I say summer but the truth is it was late spring and if it wasn’t raining it was snowing on us, and it was worth it.

The bonus of going at such an chilly and climatically volatile time of year was all the baby animals. Bison calves were the easy thing to spot, but there were prong horn and elk all over the place and at our campground in the Tetons park a nest of great horned owls. The highlight of the trip was the coyote mother and her puppies running through the sage.

For a city kid seeing coyotes in the wild (rather than on the streets) was a real treat.

>Random Photo #2

>Last fall my friend and I went on a mission to visit the Botanical Gardens, and after seeing the line of cars that was 5 blocks long we decided to find some other place to get some pictures of fall colors.
In the course of our meanderings we realized we driving past Fermi Lab and figured we would check out the Prairie Trail. It was well worth the visit even though most of the grasses had already gone brown and the flowers were well to seed. We didn’t get any brilliant fall foliage shots, but what initially seemed like a boring hike through tall grasses and weeds quickly turned in one of those discovery around every corner moments.
Next month we are going back to Fermi Lab, both to tour the trails so I can find out what the hell this plant looks like when it is growing, but also to get a private tour of the lab itself. I think I am going to explode from the anticipation, and that I need to brush up on my very basic understanding of high energy particle physics so I don’t sound like an idiot when I get there.

>House of Harm

This post could be alternatively titled “We’ve Come a Long Way”. This is building that started it all for me, Mahencha Apartments, a.k.a. The House of Harm. While I was always a trigger happy shutterbug when handed a camera, this place made me realize I wanted to do more than just document the things I have seen and done. I wanted to convey the majesty, sorrow and despair of this building, and have failed to do so for many years.

The above photo is from our very first field trip to Gary back in 2008, taken with my old second hand p.o.s. camera. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and it shows. Of course, some could argue I still don’t know what the hell I am doing, and I wouldn’t disagree with them.

While the Blogger network was closed to new posts I took some time to go through my oldest files, looking for something worthy to share, and instead saw only cringe worthy snap shots with misaligned horizons, dubious composition and an obvious lack of understanding of the basic photographic rules. I remember being very frustrated that I consistently failed to capture what I wanted to share, every photo was like that. While I rag on myself a lot for having tons of room to improve, it makes me happy to see that in the past 3 years I have improved immensely. I don’t think I will ever be a great photographer, but at least I don’t take pictures like the above anymore.

>Koi and Glass

>So after a nice long 4 days off of work I have nothing to show for new photos. Every single trip was pretty much a bust, the racetrack, downtown, the conservatory. Partly due to me just not feeling it, partly due to weather that can’t decide if it is going to pour buckets or be sunny.

I spent about 20 minutes at the koi pond in the conservatory, feeding the fish (shhhh, I don’t think you’re actually allowed to do that) and randomly playing around with taking a photo. There were a couple of fish that I wanted to get a picture of because the are just so weird looking, some type of fancy koi, but being fish they don’t sit still and don’t take direction. Thankfully the very first filter I ever bought was a polarizing filter, so I can take a picture of fish with out too much reflection.

Uninspired, that is me right now. Spring has finally turned around from the usual cold rain and snow mix to warm, humid and partly sunny/very hazy yet I just can’t seem to find my inspiration. Not that it will stop me.

>Plants Don’t Run Away


>Race Day

So I spent most of Derby day over at Arlington Racetrack, where it was cool, overcast and at times lightly raining. Not much hope for a decent picture in those conditions, especially given the limits of my camera. Most of the day was actually spent on the escalator, going between the paddock and our viewing box.

Since it was so gray out nothing I shot of the races themselves are worthwhile, but a couple of the paddock images came out decent enough. I suppose.

I think I need to learn to chill out and stop obsessing over taking pictures at every event I go to, but I can’t. Everywhere I look I see another shot, get another idea, ask my self “I wonder how that would look if I…” and away I go again.

Overall I am fairly happy with these pictures given the constraints of the situation. It makes me want to go back and try again, especially now that I’ve got a couple of ideas that I was unable to follow through with yesterday.

>Following the Hordes

>I usually avoid shooting things that are often photographed. There are so many amazing shots of the Cloud Gate (a.k.a. The Bean) that it feels kind of silly to try to compete with people who are way better than I am. Yet the other day as I wandered by in the early morning light with only 2 other people in the plaza with me I figured I’d give it a try.

This is my favorite shot. For the most part it takes the Bean out of context and gives you a trippy city in a bubble view. The shot is not so much of the Bean itself, but of the distorted city and the boundary line of blue sky. It won’t win any awards, but after trying to shoot the “Skyline in The Bean” shot that everyone else seems to have, it made me happy to have something unlike the standard shot that, to me, captures the spirit of Cloud Gate rather than the just the reality.

>Random Photo #1

>I think I’m going to start blogging a random photo at least once a month, just because I can.

Random photo from my Bristol Renaissance Faire folder.
I have been trying for years to get a good shot of the falcons and hawks at the faire, and just in the past couple of years have finally succeeded. Of course they usually have food in their mouths, but I’ll take it.

I love birds in general, and hawks in particular, so the falconry show is always good times for me, even though I can run through the falconer’s spiel with him at this point. Hopefully with the purchase of a new camera and better lenses this year I’ll be able to produce something with the birds on the wing.

>I’m Experimenting

>Well I think it is no secret that I don’t really know what the hell I am doing with this blog other than experimenting. A little advice for fellow novice photographers, a little self critique, with some random thoughts thrown in.
Oh mythical reader, hope you’re enjoying this.

I wasn’t too sure what I was doing when I took this shot either. I just ducked in under some blossoming trees and used them to frame one of the towers of a vertical lift railroad bridge. As it happens, I rather like the result. There wasn’t much I could do about the sky, the sun was behind the bridge and clouds were building rapidly, so everything is a gray wash. But I rather liked the muted light…. sometimes you trade one thing for another.

>Carry Your Camera

>This moment was just another reminder to carry your camera EVERYWHERE.

While out wandering about yesterday we found ourselves in a place with no public restrooms but more than a few restaurants and bars. We felt it was close enough to 1 PM to stop for a quick drink, use the facilities and move on. Which turned into a photoshoot of the barback.

My eyes lit up when I saw the neat rows of glasses, all lined up and refracting the light from the light board they were sitting on. I asked permission of the bartender to take a few pictures and then went to town. As a result I have been invited back to take photos in the evening when there are more patrons that ourselves and some random alcoholic in need of a beer.