I’ve got until Sunday to cover 400 pages- midterms. [Insert scream here!]
Midterms (and finals) are always so much freaking pressure! I’m still at a B+ in Behavioral Neuroscience and a strong A in Cognitive Psychology, but any ole way you slice it- midterms are crazy. I find myself using straight up avoidance (which is actually worse than denial, because at least with denial, you’re not always aware that you’re in denial, but with avoidance, it’s sort of like knowing you’re in denial and choosing to do so anyway- and yes, I’m aware that I’m starting to sound like a psychologist!) and so it’s Friday night and I’m down to the wire.
What am I doing? Installing Still Life II. I actually get to be the detective and the abducted person who’s trapped in the psycho serial killer’s booby trap-laden house (think : “Saw”).
Avoidance. Utter, blatant avoidance.
But fun! 🙂
And this is for you, Gav. I know you’ve been down lately, and you’re not feeling much inspired, but I want you to know just how much you inspire me. I have so much respect for you because over the past 8 years or so that I’ve known you (originally from Redbubble) but here too these past few years, you go out – day after day- and shoot nothing but black and white/monochrome. Street scenes, people- life. And, you have a prominent talent with shadows and lighting- which I love. I’ve only shared this with one other person, but I’ve decided to devote an entire year- all of 2015- to solely black and white/monochromatic photography. No colour allowed! For an entire year. it’s going to be great. 🙂 So, while you feel “blah” lately, please know that your work and talent continues to inspire others. This is for you:
…who are just finishing up your semesters- students and teachers alike- congratz to you!
And although I’m bowing out of the academic race to pursue my photography/art, I do hope that each of you continues to do well in your studies and teachings. All of my final grades are in and it’s going to be a close call, but I think I might’ve made the Dean’s List. More on that later.
Maggie, congratzs to you, and Y, you too. WE DID IT. 🙂
I awoke yesterday morning to this beautiful sight: shadows on my tent wall. I can’t describe my semi-obsession with shadows, even still- after years of photographing and studying them. When I’m surrounded by them, or even in their presence, I feel as if I’m with friends. They move and change and shift and breathe and swell and grow; so many times I’ve been too full of words to say anything and I’ve sat silently among them- as still as a stone- and they moved for me.
They tell stories. They have seen thousands of years and they speak- but not with words. In pictures.
Lately, I’ve been battling this inner identity war: the artist vs. the academic. My mind tells me that I must finish my degree and then pursue a second one in Criminology and Law. It’s my destiny: I’m going to help people. I’m going to stack up a few more certificates along the way (perhaps) and continue to strive in my work so that I can be of some value to others. But the academic is murdering the artist. The artist is now anorexic and throwing fits and lashing out- and really, do I really want to wait until I’m in my 50’s before I do gallery showings and such? Probably 80% of my closest friends have had numerous juried-in showings, publishings, and commercial successes. I want to work on my “Habitat” series and future showing, probably in New York, but I won’t ever do that as long as I’m in school. I simply cannot do both. I’m the first person to go to college in my family- at least on this side of Texas- and then there is only one who has beside me. I come from a family of women who believe that their roles
do not cannot extend further than the bedroom and the kitchen, and then those roles are still firmly instilled into them by a man, or, patriarch.
My free-thinking, wild, Bohemian daughter (Heidi) opened my eyes to exactly how medieval that all is, and she is my strongest influence and inspiration over the years. She’s had her brow and septum pierced, sports a rather large tattoo on her left shoulder, has died her hair pink, green, yellow and blue (was blue in there too?) and I couldn’t be more proud of her.
I know that I’ll probably be in school for another three years at least, and then what? Will I be fulfilled as a parole officer? A probation officer? My “artist self” is throwing a fit. I want to take pictures! I want to edit. I want to write poetry again- something I haven’t done in almost two decades. The artist isn’t dying, only sleeping, but I don’t know how much longer I can hang on. I want to record my songs and produce again- so many things I want to do that will simply have to wait.
And so I will.
I’m headed out into the rain for an impromptu photo shoot. I’ll be going to Bernheim Forest- beautiful place. I’m not satisfied with the shadows vs. highlights in my pics- I think I need to drop my AP and increase my ISO- I want heavy blacks. Yeah, these are the things that I ponder much of the time. :0)
I received a super special email from my Health Psychology instructor; it made me cry. It said:
For assignment three;
Your work continues to be excellent. Your answers to each item were complete, supported, reasonable, and demonstrated understanding of the key concepts. It appears your absorption of the health related information will not only help you but, as an example and source of information, those whom you affect personally and/or in your career. It is a pleasure to have such a capable student.
Homeless man wanders off with Josh’s change, and his booze.
Louisville, KY- 50 MM/natural lighting/manual
So Jen, I realize that if I’m waiting for a chance to “open up” for me to not be so busy, I’ll be waiting for a very long time. I’ve decided to sacrifice a bit of my schoolwork to share with you some of the photography tips and tricks that I’ve developed over the past decade. I’m going to demonstrate the four main areas of a photograph that are the most important to me:
- Lighting and exposure
- Rule of thirds
These are four areas that must be present in most of my photos and if they aren’t, then I supplement one of the other areas with an extra amount. Such as, if the lighting isn’t the best, kick up the mood. (Etc.) This is a good short list to stick with and think about these things always when taking your photo. Because of the ability to simply slap a filter on a photo in post processing (Iphone apps, Photoshop, Gimp, Picmonkey, etc.) it’s all too easy to fall into the “lazy photographer” trap and think, “Eh…I’ll fix it in Photoshop.” But again, this makes for bad pictures that are heavily “shopped”. I’m going to teach you a few in-camera basics that will give you a good solid pic to start out with. That way, when you dress it up, it’ll be that much better (not that much worse). What I’m going to teach you is going to seem like a lot of hard work! That’s because it is. Everything I do is manually done in “layers” – sometimes one photo can have 20+ different layers blended together. If you learn how to do these things though, instead of just “slapping a filter on it”, you’ll have your own style that is tailor made and it will be very difficult to replicate. Editing is very much like gourmet cooking. We photographers all have our own “recipes” and we guard them closely! I’m going to give you all of the ingredients for you to create your own style. And, if you have your own style- you’ll stand out from your peers in this area. Compare every photograph you take with a painting. The SOOTC / straight out of the camera pic is the canvas. We’re going to use our photo editor to “paint it”.
First, here’s a small list of abbreviations that you’ll need to learn:
SOOTC: straight out of the camera
Sh. Sp.: shutter speed
WB: white balance
B&W: black and white
Let’s start with toilet paper.
I took this shot a moment ago on my bathroom floor. I like using toilet paper because it’s simple.
This is a SOOTC shot, or, “straight out of the camera”. I like using the Lensbaby Composer lens because as you can see, it naturally blurs the edges of the frame. This particular kind of lens is great for moody, dramatic images (my trademark style) and especially vintage pieces. Here are the specs for this shot:
Lens used: Lensbaby Composer
Shutter speed: 1/15 sec.
I know you’re using a point and shoot and that’s ok; it’ll do just fine for this.
The first thing to do, always, with a shot is correct the WB/white balance if necessary, and much of the time, it’s necessary. You can see that the toilet paper is a little blue looking. It’s a good thing to make sure your WB/ white balance is preselected on your camera (this is the shady, cloudy, night shot area). If I would have paid attention beforehand, I would have selected “cloudy”, alas, half the time I don’t. For the record, it’s best if you do.
We’ll adjust the levels (midtones, shadows, contrast, lighting, and highlights in a few moments but let’s continue on first with the basics). Notice the composition: it’s off-centered. When composing your single subject, you should always try to off-center them slightly, no matter how slightly. This is where you’ll learn about “rule of thirds”. Imagine that a 4 lined grid is over your image: 2 lines vertically- 2 lines horizontally. It would look like this:
Notice the 4 connecting areas in the center: these are known as “power points”. Always place your subject, or subjects, in one of these areas. I have an invisible grid in my mind’s eye that is always there when I shoot and I’m always mindful of this. Over time, your “natural rule of thirds grid” will kick in and it will become like a second skin: you won’t even need to think about it.
Now let’s do a bit of post processing.
We’ll start with our levels.
We’re going to use GIMP because it’s a free photo editor. It’s a lot like Photoshop and much of the time, I actually prefer GIMP over PS/Photoshop. It can be daunting or overwhelming if you’ve never used it. Remember, fear is nothing more than the lack of education in an area. We’re afraid of what we don’t know much of the time. By learning the basics of photo editing, you’ll take the fear out of the equation and it won’t seem overwhelming any more.
You can find GIMP here:
Just click on the 3rd or 4th line down in the first section.
Install the program and open up your pic : FILE/OPEN
It should look like this:
Be sure to open up your Toolbox panel on the left and have your “layers” there on the right. If these two crucial boxes do not open up on their own, you can do it manually by clicking on the WINDOWS tab at the top right corner. WINDOWS/DOCKABLE DIALOGS/LAYERS and WINDOWS/TOOLBOX.
You’ll need to keep these two boxes open throughout all of your editing.
Almost everything I do has to do with “layers” and this is not uncommon in photo editing. Even the most basic of editing (level adjustments) will often contain several layers and it’s one of the areas of photo editing that is an absolutely MUST to learn. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with cheesy filters and one dimensional photos.
Right click on the Background layer in the LAYER box on the right. Select DUPLICATE LAYER. Now let’s go to the LEVELS area so you can make some minor adjustments.
Go to the COLORS tab at the top and select LEVELS.
You’ll see the LEVELS box pop up:
The diagram at the top is what you’ll want to adjust. Underneath the words INPUT LEVELS you’ll see 3 sliders. These control your shadows/midtones/and highlights. The shadows are the blackest/darkest parts of your image, the midtones are the midrange tones and the highlights are the brightest parts of the image. Always be careful with the highlights slider- you can easily blow out your whites. Let’s start with the middle slider:
It’s naturally set at 1.00 so set it at 36. Set the 1st slider (on the left) that controls the blacks or the shadows to 1.11 and set your highlights slider (the one all the way to the right) to 1.97.
You can see that the lighting is a bit more dramatic. Go ahead and duplicate this layer again. Double click on the text to rename it, (Rename it LEVELS) and then press enter to stabilize it. Rename the new layer CB for COLOR BALANCE.
Now let’s fix the colours and the WB/white balance. Go to your COLORS tab at the top and select COLOR BALANCE. This is another area that I’m constantly using. Let’s get rid of that blue cast. You’ll notice in your COLOR BALANCE area 3 specific ranges: shadows, midtones, and highlights. There are 3 sliders for each one and 6 hues to adjust, per slider. Remember, your highlights are the brighter areas of the photo, in this case, it pertains directly to the toilet paper, so select HIGHLIGHTS. Your goal here will be to move your sliders AWAY from the dominant colours here, which hare CYAN and BLUE. Every photo is different and the colour values and ranges will be different for every one. Instead of simply telling you which values to set your sliders to here, I want you to analyze the photo’s values, highlights in this case, and adjust each slider accordingly. I’ve learned over the years that a good counterbalance to CYAN is yellow and red, so let’s increase those channels’ values, decreasing the CYAN. Again, be sure that your HIGHLIGHTS channel is selected. Be sure to check that it’s indeed the top layer you’re working on (the layer named CB). Ok, let’s go.
Move slider AWAY from CYAN- +29
Move slider AWAY from MAGENTA- + 13
Move slider AWAY from BLUE (toward the YELLOW) -17
Be sure that your readings are the same:
29, 13, -17
The midtones look pretty good so let’s move on to the shadows and give them some warmth.
Move the top slider TOWARD the RED- +9.
Keep the center slider set at 0.
Move the bottom slider TOWARD the YELLOW- -11.
Notice in the LAYERS box, you’ll see a small EYE icon. This is your visibility toggle. If you can see the eye there, it means that that layer is visible. If you uncheck the eye, it means that that layer is currently invisible. This is especially useful as it allows you to toggle back and forth between pics for comparisons. Go ahead and click on the top layer which will set it to “invisible”. Continue clicking the CB-layer EYE and compare your LEVELS pic and your CB/color balance pic.
You’ll notice that the top layer has more reds and yellows- it’s your “warmer” layer. The layer underneath has stronger greens and blues- this is your cooler layer. Let’s mix the two. Notice that each layer has an OPACITY slider. This controls the visibility amount for each layer. Again, always be sure that you’re working in the correct layer beforehand. Choose the top layer, and bring your OPACITY slider down some. Let’s take it to 45%. This will give us a well balanced amount of reds, greens, yellows, and blues in the pic. What this does is increases your colour ranges and adds more depth.
Now, merge all of the layers together. Go to the IMAGE tab at the top, and select FLATTEN IMAGE.
It’s always best to duplicate any image you flatten. You’ll find in editing, it really is a continual cycle of merging and duplicating. So, duplicate it and be sure that you’re working in the top layer. Now, let’s add a textured layer to this. We’re going to bring a dramatic flair to this and give it a haunting feeling.
For this, let’s convert it to a B&W. Yes, all of that colour modification just to convert it to a B&W! The reason for this is to give it a better value and tonal range once it has been converted. There will be added layers of depth by adjusting the colours beforehand.
Click on your COLORS tab at the top and select DESATURATE. A small box will appear allowing you to choose from one of 3 areas: lightness, luminosity, and average. Select AVERAGE if you’re not sure which one to go with, but again, because every photo is different and every photo contains different values and ranges, some photos would be best suited for “luminosity” and so on so be sure to test all three for every image and choose the best one. (If you’re still unsure what to go with, choose AVERAGE.)
You’ll notice that we have a good range of tones here from the deepest of black to the brightest of white: this is what makes a good black and white photo. Rename the top layer to “B&W”. You should have the coloured image on the bottom and the B&W one on the top. Now, duplicate the B&W layer. You can rename it B&W2.
Let’s add a texture. (Adding a texture isn’t necessary at all, and it can be very tricky at first, but it compliments many photos, especially portraits, abandoned houses and such.) I like to add a texture or several sometimes because it too adds depth to your photo. I like things that look like hair or old film scratches- it gives my images a dirty, ugly-ish appearance and that’s exactly what I like.
So let’s add a dusty old film-scratch texture to this. Here’s what the texture looks like by itself:
It’s one of my favourites.
When adding a texture to a photograph, it’s very important to make sure that your sizes match up. Check to see what size your image is in GIMP. You can do this by clicking on the IMAGE tab at the top and then select SCALE IMAGE. Notice the sizes there. Be sure that it’s set to PIXELS (the box on the right) and that the width and height are written down (or memorized). Those are the exact measurements that you’ll need to resize your texture to. I recommend using IRFANVIEW as a basic photo viewer, it also reads RAW files so that’s perfect. (I’ve used IRFANVIEW for 8 or so years now and it’s one of my most used tools.) You can get it here:
Download and install that. Once you’ve opened up your pic in IRFANVIEW, resize it to your proper width and height, and then IN IRFANVIEW- select EDIT/COPY. Now we’re ready to paste the texture into GIMP. After copying the texture, go to GIMP and select EDIT/PASTE.
Once the textured layer has been pasted into GIMP, you’ll notice on the right side in your LAYERS box that the top layer has been added. It’s what is now called a “floating channel”. You’ll need to stabilize it like the rest of the layers and it’s very simple to do. Right click the (top) floating channel (your texture layer) and click on ANCHOR LAYER.
Now you should see 3 stabilized layers there in your box. The texture in the top layer, the B&W image in the middle, and the coloured BG/background image in the bottom. We no longer need the coloured image in the bottom channel/layer so you can go ahead and click the eye, switching it over to invisibility if you like, or, you can leave it as is- it won’t hurt anything.
Now it’s time to learn about BLENDING MODES. In the LAYERS box you’ll notice the word MODE above the OPACITY slider. This is the area that gives your layers different effects. The blending modes I use most often are: overlay, multiply, screen, and soft light. There are lots of useful blending modes here though.
Be sure that you’re working in the top layer of the LAYER box (should be named B&W2 copy I think) and take the OPACITY down to about 63.4%. Go to your blending mode area which is MODE (again, it can be found above your OPACITY slider in your LAYER box) and set the mode to SCREEN. This is a bit of a light, silkscreen and gives your images a soft, smoky look. Afterwards, go ahead and flatten the image, again, you can find this area at IMAGE/FLATTEN IMAGE at the top tabs, and then immediately DUPLICATE the layer. It will then look like this:
Next, let’s run it through the LEVELS again to increase the blacks/SHADOWS. I often repeat my processes two and three times throughout one photo edit. Increasing the shadows at this point will give the blacks a smeared/chalky chemical look. Let’s try it:
INPUT LEVELS/3 sliders:
Shadows (1st slider all the way to the left)/ middle slider- midtones- .80/3rd slider all the way to the right (Highlights)- 245. Now, DUPLICATE the top layer again, and let’s hit the LEVELS one more time.
Set them at or around these levels:
Shadows/1st slider all the way to the left- 29
Midpoint/middle slider- 1.34
Highlights/3rd slider all the way to the right- 255
Notice the darker “burned” looking areas in the shadows now. It will look like this:
Now I’m going to teach you another useful trick. It’s the CURVES area and it will give us master control over our colours and hues. Go here: COLORS/CURVES from the tabs at the top. You’ll see a CHANNEL dropdown menu box. Inside you will find the RED, GREEN, and the BLUE channels. We’re going to edit each of these three channels individually. Think of your primary colours and the various colours you can create by mixing them. Let’s make a base/foundational colour of bluegreen/yellow. Select your BLUE channel, and then make a backwards or inverted “S”, like this:
Don’t go over the top or it’ll be overkill. Remember to do all things in moderation. Now, let’s kick up the reds. Select the RED channel from the same area (dropdown menu):
Let’s do something a little different here. Experiment. You don’t have to do the exact same thing- find your distinct style here and work with it.
Let’s experiment with the GREEN channel, found in the same area:
There’s no right or wrong way to do this. Do what makes you happy.
Now, merge the two layers IMAGE/FLATTEN IMAGE and then DUPLICATE the layer once again.
Now you’ll use the same thing: CURVES to adjust your overall lighting. Select COLORS/CURVES. In the CHANNELS box there- the drop-down menu, it’s preset to VALUES. Leave that as is. The diagonal line that you see is the line you’ll be using. Pull the bottom left part of the line straight down to increase your shadows/blacks. As seen here:
It’s still a bit too red for my liking, so let’s run it through the colour balance again to decrease the reds.
Go to COLORS/COLOR BALANCE from the tab at the top and select your MIDTONES channel. Move the slider toward the CYAN -14. Leave the middle slider as is, but set the bottom slider to -1 in the direction of the YELLOW. (In other words, TOWARDS the YELLOW.)
It should now look like this:
It’s a mixture of yellow, red, cyan, magenta, green, and blue but the dominant colours are yellow and green. You’ll notice that it’s not one “flat colour” or tone. There’s more depth here because of the broan ranges in colours. Let’s do one final thing to it to give it a bit of a smoky vignette around the edges. Select your BURN tool. In your TOOLBOX area it’s the tool that is at the bottom, just aboce your colour palette boxes. Move your cursor over it and it’ll read: DODGE/BURN tool. (The DODGE lightens it the BURN darkens it.) We’ll need a bigger brush than the ones offered so let’s create a larger one.
Select your BRUSH tool.
At the very bottom of the pop-up box that displays your brush selection, find the bottom right brush icon and select it. You’ll need to click on the actual CIRCLE brush picture in your brush area to activate it first. That can be found just underneath the OPACITY slider and above the SCALE slider. Once the popup box opens up, you’ll see the needed brush icon in the bottom right corner. If you move your cursor over it, it should read: Open the brush selection dialog
Now at the bottom of THAT area, you will find a NEW BRUSH icon. Click on that. Increase the radius to your desired amount and rename the brush something like LARGE. It will then be added to your brush collection. If you do this, it will come in handy tremendously. You’ll need larger brushes for partial erasing, burning, etc.
Now let’s go back to the burn tool and select your large brush. You’ll need to decrease its size right off the bat, significantly. I set mine to .74% SCALE and 28% OPACITY. Your goal will be to burn the very edges of it neatly, not add a big, puffy smears.
After it’s finished, it should look something like this:
Last but not least, we need to add a bit of a guassian blur to it and then sharpen it. The blur gives it bit more of a vintage finish and we’ll slightly sharpen the focal point afterwards. Let’s go ahead and merge the layers again, IMAGE/FLATTEN IMAGE. (From the tabs at the top.)
DUPLICATE the layer, of course.
Then you’ll choose (from the tabs at the top) FILTERS/BLUR/GUASSIAN BLUR. You’ll see a BLUR RADIUS area which will allow you to set your horizontal and vertical blur radius. Select 2 for both. Click OK.
Next, you’ll need to select (from the tabs at the top) FILTERS/ENHANCE/UNSHARP MASK.
Set the amounts for the following:
Over time, you’ll grow more aware of what radius you’ll need for each image.
Now we’re going to layer this underneath our blurred layer. First, let’s name these layers accordingly so we don’t confuse the two. First, be sure to duplicate the bottom layer, always. Anytime you make significant changes to your layer, it’s good practice to duplicate the BG or base layer so you can go back to it if you mess up. So, duplicate that bottom layer. Toggle the EYE icon to invisibility (again, on the bottom BG/layer).
Now, rename the top layer to SHARP and the middle layer to BLUR. The middle layer should be the Guassian Blur layer.
Now you’re going to learn how to erase. First, let’s switch the layers. We want the blurred layer on top and the sharp layer underneath it. You can do this easily by pushing the BLUR layer right up to the top.
We’re all set to erase. Go to your eraser tool which you’ll find in the TOOLBOX area. Select your LARGE brush that you’ve just created. Our goal here is to isolate the focal point, which is the center of the toilet paper roll in this case. We’re needing to erase the blur from the top layer so the sharpened bit can bleed through from the layer underneath. This is one of my most used techniques in editing and I use it with lighting, tones, colours, practically everything. You’ll be able to “paint things” into your photos with your eraser brush this way. I can’t stress the importance of doing this for added depth in an image.
Let’s set our brush to .96% SCALE and about 24% or so for the OPACITY.
Now because we’re going to be erasing FROM the BLUR layer, we’ll need to right click on that layer and select “Add alpha channel”. You’ll need to do this for every layer you’re needing to erase onto. (Only the BLUR layer in this case.)
So let’s erase just around the toilet paper roll itself so that the sharpness will be revealed underneath. If you find that you’re still needing more sharpness, increase your eraser brush’s OPACITY to 60% or so.
I think we’re just about finished here. You can use these steps to create moody, dramatic, “haunting” images or chemically processed, burned “ugly” type works. They’re not for everyone, but they’re my favourite. Here is a comparative before and after:
I strongly encourage you to experiment with these steps. Again, there are no right or wrong ways to do them and really, every person is different and we all like different things. In time and through trial and error mostly, you’ll come to find your own distinct style. It took me a good 7+ years to discover most of these things. (Lots of tears, frustration, and aggravation.) I know this seems like a lot of work, but this is actually a “quick edit”. It can become a complex procedure when 5+ textures are involved. All of this is a lot of fun though. I hope I was able to help you some.
Lensbaby Composer/Double Glass
f/2.8 -natural lighting/ISO 100
sh. sp. – 1/4000/Falls of the Ohio
I may or may not be showing several of my water pieces in a “water exhibit” soon. (More on that later.) For now, it’s hush-hush.
I went out today down to the Falls of the Ohio (which I actually named “Fossil Rock” when I was a child, 30+ years ago) and grabbed some water shots with the Lensbaby. Although I’m not exactly a novice with this particular lens, I’d be a fool to be so comfortable to think that I don’t have much room to improve. And, truth be told, the more I learn in photography, the more I feel that I need to learn. I’m always restless and, artistically, never satisfied- always pushing to grow and learn new things. Years ago, I had considered going to art school. I’m glad I chose to study Behavioral Sciences instead. With art (and photography in particular), the world is my teacher, the camera is my canvas, and lighting is my brush.
Josh and I are headed back out to the dam area. The (possible) exhibit allows only 3 pieces to show. It’s a juried exhibition- I’m excited. (But again, more on that later. It’s not quite “in the bag”.) I can rap off 500 shots in under an hour, and I do that frequently. Selecting only three pieces from a day’s shoot of thousands of pics is like trying to find a flea on a mountain.
I’ve also been invited to show several pieces in a Berlin exhibition. (Yeah- that Berlin!)
Again, it’s a juried exhibition and I want to do it, but I have to be selected first: it’s a bit if a waiting game. I’m still pretty behind in some of my classes and I’ll really need to put my nose to the grind because the exhibition deadlines are within the next week. Time to set my alarm to 6:00 a.m. every morning!
Off and running…
A man told me today that my goat belongs in a magazine.
I’ll take that as a compliment. :0)
Trying to focus manually while your target is moving constantly isn’t an easy task. But I love the way manual shooting paints dreamy bohek (heavy blurring) into the frame, such as the fence seen in the foreground. All-manual focussing and exposure (shutter speed/aperture/ISO/WB, etc.) has a certain quality and look to it that’s not easily replicated. I mean, it can be, but then it has the shopped look to it. (Photoshopped.) I’m hopelessly in love still with monochromatic images and especially with shooting IN monochrome.
Colour’s alright too. But nothing makes me as happy as shooting in black and white- all manual- using only natural lighting. My itch has been scratched.
Back to schoolwork…
Squire Boone Caverns
Lately, life seems to be flying by. This is what things look like to me right now: Museum of Modern Art/man studying exhibit/New York, New York
Canon Rebel XSI/Sigma 17-70/Handheld/manual focus/manual exposure
I’ve recently discovered that I’ve been grossly misplaced and put in the wrong class at my school, Vincennes University. I was signed up for Public Speaking (via advisor) and added to a course whose professor is now retired, and has been for some time. When I went to submit my assignment, I was told that one of the professor’s cohorts had taken over. When I shared this with the staff that misplaced me, I was told that the replacement class was full.
(Here we go.)
Needless to say, I straightened out the mess, and although I am now officially eight weeks behind in the new class (again, erroneously on the school’s part and at no fault of my own), I am somehow the first in my class to submit my 13 question and answer discussion on various parts of the speech and communication process. I’m not sure if that’s pretty darn impressive on my part or pretty pathetic where my classmates are concerned. Eight weeks in and not one assignment submitted to the discussion board? (I’m hoping I’ve screwed something up somewhere, but that’s not likely.)
Either way, I’m excited to be assigned a professor who is not only proficient at his job, but he’s a little tougher than most, and I love that. High-pressured, extensive assignments are what drive me. I actually asked to be moved out of a class once because the professor stated in his syllabus that a “book” wasn’t necessary in his course, and instead of using any academic references, he chopped his syllabus into six sections and asked that we use that as our “material” for the duration of the class. I reported him immediately and was told that several other students had done the same thing. I wasted no time in being moved into a more challenging class.
I’m also going to be scheduling three book readings for my children’s book, Peanut Butter Soup, in the local tri-city area: all cities that I went to school in. Tomorrow is the actual Read Across America Day, which coincides with Dr. Seuss’ birthday, and while I would love to do the book readings then, I’m so crunched for time I’m going to have to set back the dates to the following week. I ordered three paperback copies today that are being overnighted to me. I’ll be able to sign them and contribute one book per school library. School readings aren’t the time or place to promote your book. (That’s what book signings and media taps are for.) School readings are all about connecting with the kids, planting some very important seeds, and shining the spotlight on the kids and listening to them. It’s also the time to remind yourself (if you’re an author, such as me) that you are not a rock star and it is not about you. It’s all about the kids.
I was told by one of the school’s staff at the last book reading, that she had never seen her class respond to anyone before in such a way. She said it was like therapy for the kids. 🙂 That’s the best compliment that a children’s book author can possibly receive- it was for me, anyway. They also gave me a round of free tickets to the school’s play, and a bouquet of fresh wildflowers. It was the school I went to as a child, and I was incredibly honoured to be able to go back 34 years later and share my life with those kids.
“Are you rich?” One of the kids asked me. (I laughed.)
“Are you?” I asked him.
“No, but you wrote a book. You’re not rich?”
“No,” I said to him, smiling. “In fact, I’ve never been rich, and barely had any money at all when I wrote this book.” I said. “You don’t have to have a lot of money to do things you want to do in life. You just have to have the desire and willpower,” I said.
By the time I left one classroom and made my way to the next one, the class had already heard that I sing too, and yes, they made me sing a song, A capella, which I did, gladly.
“Why aren’t you on American Idol?! Dang! You can sing!” One of the girls said.
“Because then I would be all rich and famous and I wouldn’t be here with you. And I’d rather be here with you.” I answered.
It wasn’t a “book reading”, it was an event. I’ve never had a better time in my life.
Tonight Josh and I are headed out of town for some much needed R&R. My mom is under the weather and I’ll be fixing her a delicious meal, finishing up a Behavioral health (model) project, enjoying some ginger & lemon tea with an unhealthy dose of pre-calculus, and cramming in some Jeopardy. (Yes, that’s how I relax…)
Bullfrog Creek- Day Camping with J / 5 picture Panorama
“I’m sorry Birgy,” Josh says. “I will not play any more ‘Hotel California’ on your guitar.”
“That’s alright,” says I. (I’m lying.)
He switches over to Cold Play and I give him an approving sound. Until, that is, he starts speaking in a pseudo-British accent, and badly. He’s not even drinking, and so that makes it even weirder.
“How do you spell weird?” I ask nobody in particular.
My son, Brian (“Bob”, he says with a stern look), says, “Mom…it’s w-e-i-r-d…” adding a slight roll of the eyes.
There’s clearly a celabratory vibe in the air.
Josh switches over to “Rolling on the River” -careful to curl his R’s for words like “turning” and “burning”.
Something peculiar happened the other day.
My daughter, Brianna, took J and I out to Ihop. Naturally, I felt really awful because she was paying for it and adamant that we accept, so, we reluctantly obliged. Now I’m not one to go around making trouble with waiters- I swear it. But ask those that know me best and they’ll say otherwise. It’s not that I’m looking for it, it’s just that I appreciate attention to detail and good customer service.
The last time we were at Ihop, we were turned away. They said their machines were down and so we were unable to order, but were “more than welcome to have a seat anyway”. (Isn’t that nice.) Naturally, I said to my posse, “Let’s blow this joint.”
Upon our return, we settled in (weeks later) lusting over the idea that we would be served a hot cup of cocoa with marshmallows. I asked our server to bring us a round.
“Um, we’re out of hot chocolate,” she said.
“Hmm…,” says I. “Do you think you could bring me a cup of coffee on the house in that case?”
She laughed a nervous laugh, and realizing I was serious, gave me an even quicker laugh with a muffled “Um, I can ask…” (etc.)
I asked for water also to which I was given, “I always bring water,” abruptly.
Oh boy- here we go.
(Josh switches over to “System of a Down”.)
She rushed off saying, “It is what it is…” -my daughter agreeing.
“It is not “what it is” – what it is is unprofessional because they should have been on top of this! Regardless, they should compensate their customers when the person is inconvenienced twice in a row in an establishnment. It’s just “good business.”
I receive “the look” from the family.
The waitress had said that she would see what she could do before racing off. I doubted that highly.
When she returned, I wasn’t surprised that she said, “Um, about the free coffee…yeah, I’m just not able to do that.”
No doubt. She’s not. But I doubted that she’d even tried. And that’s what pissed me off. I figured she went into the back room, moved a few cups around, and came back with the news. No, I don’t have proof, but I could tell by her demeanor that she was not liking me. At all.
I asked to be excused and went to “the bathroom”.
(Actually, I went to the front desk to ask for a manager.)
The manager came out and was very polite and such. I explained the situation to him, mentioning that this was the second time we were put off by his establishment.
Now you may think at this point that I’m a complete nag. But no. It’s the principal of the matter- and I’m driven by principal and integrity in life. I just want people to give a damn.
He said that free coffee was no problem and absolutely he could understand what I meant.
THAT is my kind of service. 🙂
I went back to my table to find a pitcher of coffee sitting there. The waitress came to the table and I said, “By the way, the coffee IS on the house. I talked to your manager.”
She seemed slightly embarrassed and I was taken aback by her response.
“Well, in that case, ALL of the coffees are on the house.”
We had ordered some fancy coffees (cappucinos with cream, etc.) totalling about $11.
I was caught off guard by her grace and devotion. She totally didn’t have to do that and I was perplexed.
When we were preparing to go, I got my checkbook, and wrote out a personal post-dated check for $15. I wanted her to know that I thought she was absolutely awesome for what she did. Handing it to her I said,
“I want you to have this, for going above and beyond your job and doing this for us. We think you’re awesome.”
The look on her face said everything.
“Come here,” she said, grabbing me into a full bear hug, tears in her eyes.
She hugged my daughter too, and myself again. We smiled at each other and gave each other another hug before we left.
I was so humbled by this experience.
Life is funny.
It has a way of kicking your butt and making you realize that you’re not the big hotshot you think you are.
And thank God for that…
Josh smiles wryly in the dark, holding the pinhole camera he’s building for me.
I have a slight obsession with the pinhole. He created an aperture hole by poking an attached slice of a coke can (that was firmly fixed to the inside of a wooden box) with a guitar string. We picked up some 200 ISO film last night, and we’re going out today to test it out. A homemade pinhole camera!
It’s amazing how much I want to get out and shoot, and begin the creative process almost immediately now that the semester is over. I’m beginning to realize that there are two very distinct cycles that I rotate through: the “school me”, which is the stressed out, dead-line driven, insomniac who strives to get good grades and is very, very sad- and then there’s the carefree child-like “out-of-school me”, who indeed looks up at the sky and marvels- and cries, with a big grin on my face, as I did today.
I am 43 going on 19.
I don’t ever want to lose my child-like view of the world.
And I feel complete with the simplest of things.
I think I’m falling back in love with life.
And so fast!
I remain obsessed with monochrome, mood, lighting, and manual exposure.
School is out.
Autumn is dead.
Winter is here.
This is when I come alive. 🙂
I can’t explain my attraction to ugly things.
In my years of rubbing elbows with many professional photographers, somewhere along the way I grew tired of perfection. “Textbook”.
It bothers me that people starting out in photography are being told that their images need to be “crystal clear”. Digital noise is considered a big-time no no. As a matter of fact, if there is grain and noise in an image, it’s even considered amateurish. But I like to go against the grain. (Pah tah bomp!)
The majority of people I know keep their cameras in “P” mode (and no folks, that does not mean “professional”). So few people shoot in manual any more!
People ask me questions about my images; they’re wanting to develop their own style. I tell them to break every rule they can.
Somewhere along the way, I fell out of love with “picture perfect” and decided to do my own thing.
I’m going to muck up my images with digital noise and a deliberate high ISO field.
Above all, I want to express mood.
For me, this means speaking with the light. (Exposure, ISO, and so on.)
Instead of “finding the light” in the frame, I study the shadows.
I begin with the darkened shadows and work the light into my photo (instead of the other way around).
Very film noir.
Such as my kitchen chair.
How do you make a kitchen chair tell a story?
How do you make it express a particular mood?
By finding the ugliness in a subject- I find its truth.
I loved the way the lighting was wrapping itself around the lines in this chair.
It makes me uncomfortable to look at this. It’s edgy. Dark. Somber.
Who would want to sit in that chair?!
But I find it terribly beautiful.
Try as I might, I can’t get away from this style.
It’s become who I am.
And I’m alright with it..
Shot in monochrome/ISO: 50/Manual exposure f/2
Sh. Sp.-1/20th sec.
So my assignments are stacking up already.
Fill out proctor forms/fax back to instructors
Read 28 pages in Nutrition/take first quiz
Finish up reading in Alcohol and Other Drug Problems- type out 2 page report as a treatment center assistant, specializing in prevention
Prepare for my first speech
They’re not due until next Monday, so…there’s time.
I’m tempted to go play hookie. Down at the river. With my camera. Maybe- maybe I could do research of some kind. For school. Or something.
With my camera.
Josh is frustrated. He’s on his laptop rambling on about his inconsiderate teacher.
I really didn’t hear a word he said.
“Is that your Spanish class?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said, seemingly appeased.
Heidi/Lensbaby Composer Pro/Double Glass Ops./RAW/Manual [Rebel xti]
I can’t believe school starts tomorrow. My summer vacation is officially over.
Heidi emailed me and asked if she might come to live with us until February. I’m ecstatic! We’ll be moving into a new house before September 10th. The $5,280 in school grants and loans will be a big help. Josh will be going full-time this semester as well. He’ll be receiving less than $4,000, but between the both of us, we’ll pay for five months of rent up front, which will take some of the pressure off. Because Heidi will be with us, we’ll probably go with a four bedroom house. When she’s back in Bloomington (here and there), we’ll use the room as an office.
I’m a bit weirded out by my Speech class. I’ve put that class off for two years. (Sigh.) I’ll also be going into my fourth semester of college math. I was going to break up my classes and only go part-time, but decided to bite the bullet and face all of my fears at once and simply get it over with. I’m saddened that I will have to put my photography on the back burner once again, but excited by the fact that I’ll be simultaneously working on my online gallery.
I was also just juried in to Sojie 18:
Birgitta, hi, your image below was nominated for SoJie 18 –
Solo’s Juried Invitational Exhibition on “Abstracts”
- deadline is Friday, August 24, 2012, 8AM New York time!
- judging starts immediately after the deadline
- show opens Monday, August 27th!
SoJie 18 – exhibition space and instructions
Use the special “Easy Button” linked in the intro to get image code to copy/paste into a comment.
There is the link, and an illustration in the intro on how to use the Easy Button, 1-2-3.
p.s. Below is your nominated image. You will see your nomination sticker in the comments. Click it, or the above link for instructions.
I took the shot with a Lensbaby Composer Pro (Double Glass)- slow shutter sp./ Night shot (about 8 seconds or so).
RAW/manual/Canon Rebel Xti
I love to bend the light. This image is almost SOOTC/straight out of the camera.
I did a slight level adjustment, but apart from that- it is.
It’s a prestigious nomination. I’m pleased. 🙂
Well my head has been splitting open for going on two days straight.
Even so, I had a little melody playing today in my heart when I woke up.
I layed out the skeleton this morning, and pretty much made up the last bits as I went along. It’s still in its concept form.
(I used an alias at YouTube. I’m enjoying my little bloggy hiding place here. Very, very quiet. Nice. 🙂
I’m realizing only today why I’m so creative. Because I’ve had to improvize my whole life. Having next to nothing to work with, forces you to try harder. You have no choice but to experiment because you really don’t know what else to do. Over time, your style becomes defined, refined, and unmistakable.
Having to sell my rig, more than once, I was left with only my Canon G3. It’s a 4 MP dinosaur. Because I had nothing else, I decided to not only learn how to shoot in B&W + manual, but revel in it.
That was about two years ago. I’ve been shooting for about 7, but B&W rules me. I’m completely infatuated with the marriage between light and shadows. To me, black and white is already a story. The images within an image become the actors on the stage, or props, I suppose, but even if you have only one blank wall, and a cheap camera set up to photograph that wall, with a bit of natural window lighting hitting it (through parted curtains, say), then the clouds passing over the sun become the filters. The passing clouds increase and decrease the gamma and contrast naturally.
The story of B&W is one of masculinity and femininity. Life and death. Hot and cold. Love and hate. When stripped down to their very elements, they are in their most powerful state. I have little interest at the moment in HDR, filters of this or that kind- and while they’re great (and I have experience in those as well) I can’t escape the beauty of being stripped down to almost nothing, and simply working with what ya got.
That’s not to say I photograph things in the nude.
I’m experimenting with a new webcam I got. It’s a cheapie $18.00 Logitech. But it’s capable of shooting in B&W (Heaven……….!) and so I’ve been sitting here in my computer chair, painting shadow swans on my wall with my hands. When I move my hands back and forth to and away from my chest, the shadows become elongated horizontally. Such a simple action. But it changes the dynamics of everything.
And here are some snappies:
This is generally how I feel several times a week.
“Ahhh…..close the curtains!”
(Migraines make the light absolutely unbearable.) Oh, and I wasn’t faking it. I did indeed wake up with a migraine.
I intentionally bleached the lighting, and jacked up the gamma so the blacks would be double heavy.
Choppy, grainy, bleeding contrast, toasted exposure- what’s not to love?
(Yes, yes, I’m kidding.) But the shadows on my neck from my fingers are intentional.
It’s a fair statement to say that I am obsessed with shadows.
Perhaps I’ll post a video today.
I wandered around the streets of my hometown on New Year’s Eve in search of “subjects”. I wanted to shoot people but the place was like a ghost town! I’m so drawn to shadows and still life, I’m wondering how I will ever break out of this pattern if I want to venture into street photography. I don’t want to be a simple point-snd-shooter. Composition means everything to me, as do strong lines. I drove to Times Square once, in New York City, and shot street photography at night. My bags had been packed and waiting by the door to go to Texas (from Indiana). my Aunt had been sick and my daughter and I were on our way to see them. They cancelled at the last minute, and so we found ourselves with packed bags, $1,000 and no where to go. I told my daughter to pick a place, anywhere in the U.S. and that’s where we would go. She said, “What about New York?” And so, the next day, we found ourselves driving straight into the belly of the beast: Times Square. Here are some of my photos from that trip: (All photos are shot in manual + natural lighting/no flash.)
Times Square at night, New York, New york
Canon Rebel XSI Sigma 17-70
Modern Day Vintage w/ film grain- Canon Rebel XSI + Sigma 17-70
A mass of people simming in the city sea. W. 45th St.
Near Park Avenue, Manhattan, New York
Canon Rebel XSI Sigma 17-70
I had crawled up to this pigeon in the rain.
The guy was eating. I was watching him. The pigeon was watching me.
Then I was watching the pigeon.
Then the guy was watching me. Then he jumped out of the frame.
I smiled politely. Then I snapped away.
Hurley’s. Manhattan, New York and a little bit of GIMP.
Canon Rebel XSI/Sigma 17-70
Muesum of modern Art
New York, New York
A small crowd gathers to study Monet’s Water Lilies.
Canon Rebel XSI- Sigma 17-70
Overlooking Broadway from the Crowne Plaza Times Square hotel. Nice place! Even if the eggs are $9.00.
Coffee for breakfast.
Hanging out on Broadway at Times Square. Everything sizzled with energy. The smell of hotdogs permeated everything and there really was steam coming out of the sewers. Just like in the movies. Horns honked. taxis were a streak of canary yellow and the rain drizzled lightly. It was another world. Swarms of people hustled about- headphones attached, eyes making no contact- disappearing into the night.
The beauty of motion blur/long exposure. One of my many passions in photography.
Broadway in classic “Old Hollywood” black and white.
I was almost laying in the street for this one. I like wide angle shots, and prefer verticals over horizontals. I’ve been shooting verticals for years- and my eye is trained for this type of composition. I feel so vulnerable regarding horizontal composition, in comparison. I’m hoping to practice up in that area over the next year.
As seen from my hotel window at night, overlooking Broadway. I was sitting on the executive office desk Indian style, lens pressed to the glass- full panoramic view. I could see the people in the buildings across from me working out at their office gyms, after hours. I wonder if they could see me.
I was fascinated that behind all of the glitz and glamour of Broadway, this is what it boils down to. The viewers arrived (on Broadway) around the corner in limousines, draped in diamonds, but the stars came in through this humble stage door, accompanied by the grimiest dumpster I had ever seen.
Museum of Modern Art
New York, New York
When I walked into the room, it was as if this guy had been waiting for me.
I immediately sunk to my knees and hunkered down to the floor as low as I could go, loweing the exposure so I could get a good silhouette.
I thought it called for a vintage texture (it’s actually about 7 textures combined) and lots and lots of GIMP. I titled the print “Therapy” and sold a matted canvas to a mystery buyer at Redbubble.com for $175.00.
That put a smile on my face.
Museum of Modern Art. I was in the hallway and saw this guy walking up the stairs. It called for a diagonal composition. (Makes me think of Escher, one of my favourite artsits, second to Van Gogh only.)
New York just wouldn’t be the same without its generous splash of fire escapes throughout the city.
But I digress.
Here are a few shots from my walk-around on New Years Eve. The shadows told me it was the right time to go out and shoot.
Film noir/B&W-shadows- it’s where I live.
The streets were completely abandoned on New Year’s Eve. I loved it.
My mother and I rung in the New Year alone in her apartment. She was tucked into her comfy chair and I read to her for an hour out of my book: Anthology of American Poets. (Poe, Dickenson, Longfellow, Frost, and about twelve others.) It was so old fashioned and simple. I took this shot of her two cats in the early afternoon on New Year’s Day. Both cats are black and white. So, this is a black and white shot in black and white of two black and white cats:
My mother’s lamp.
There’s almost nothing more beautiful to me than film grain with a dash of gaussian blur.
In black and white, of course. Heavy on the black.
Canon G3/natural lighting/manual exposure
Most of my friends are artists, painters, and photographers who have solo exhibitions. Sometimes my artographer acquaintances will title their images with a super-long, melodramatic sequence of events (that should be written in volumes), such as:
Although the Winds Beckon Me to Run High Upon the Mountaintop Nevertheless I Will Walk Along this Broken Trail
(Yes, I just made that up.)
I say, call a fork a fork.
Natural window lighting/RAW/handheld/film grain/GIMP/Canon G3/study in lighting and shadows
I took this shot of my son earlier this evening. This is the look I want to achieve with my digital phtography: low-light film.
Exposure: 1/3 of a sec./ISO 100/F. 2.07/handheld/manual/RAW/Canon G3 (I snuck up on him while at the computer.)
When I walked by him, I saw the glow of light on his face (my mind saw it in black and white) and I knew I had to get it.
This was shot in black and white. I find that after shooting in black and white for a while, my eye becomes trained on shapes and lines, and where the light falls off and where it is introduced. I’m forced to see the many shades of blacks, whites, grays, and all of the beautiful tones within. The beauty of shooting in RAW is having it automatically converted into colour once it’s loaded in my editor. (I use GIMP.) So, I shoot in black and white, and the results are colour- but with far better lighting than if I had shot it in colour.
This past year has been a hectic one. I sold my Canon Rebel XSI + Sigma 17-70 + 50 MM 1.8 + Canon EF 75-300 + Canon EF 18-55 for rent $ and bills when the recession hit. I was left only with my 4 MP Canon G3. I’ve been shooting with that thing for nine months straight now. (Yes, I have cried tears!) This forced me to become a more creative photographer and artist. I chose to shoot in only manual (RAW), adjusting my aperture and shutter speed (and ISO). Naturally, this is more work, but it bonds me to the creative process. We labour together, the camera and I. I want dynamic lighting and shadows and I want film grain. I want motion blur. I want to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty. I have no resolutions for 2012. I only have the desire to be a good mother, an inspiration to others where my work is concerned, and the courage to continue shooting in manual when my new camera arrives in a few weeks. (I have chosen the Canon Rebel Xti. I really don’t need more than 10 MP for my particular style.) Oh. And did I mention that I want to get into street photography? (I believe I’m tapped out in the “apartment photography” genre.)
I took these out in the field the other day. I found that black works well with long exposure photographs. 3 sec. exp’s./ISO100/ F.8
Chai (and my love of film grain)
My kitchen chair- 8 second exposure/handheld/Canon G3/abstract
A splash of colour: previous work
And some tree shots