Tuesday, May 29, 2012

And the winner is.. the iPhone camera

Week 4 of the Photo A Day photojournalism class at the Charleston Center for Photography, taught by Alice Keeney. 

It has been said that the best camera is the one that is with you. I put that to the test this week by using my iPhone. I deleted most of what was captured, but I was able to get these two pictures (edited only with the "Camera +" app). It so happened that the iPhone camera images had stronger compositions than ones I took with my Canon SLR this week! This one was taken while I was waiting for the bus one morning. I thought the reflection was cool and the texture of the gravel would make a nice contrast in sepia.
  The next one was taken also while waiting for the bus. I was first only going to take a shot of the bus shelter because I liked the repetition in the windows. Then the three women momentarily separated into individual "frames" or compartments and I hit the shutter. Capturing groups of three similar subjects is supposed to be more pleasing to the eye.

Another way to find repetition and pull a composition together is to find things with similar colors and shapes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Photo A Day - Week 2

This was my favorite photo for the week.  The spot-lit ballerina is my oldest daughter, Avery, who is very proud of how long she can stand on one leg. I was pleased that she was positioned under the light. The exposure was lightened to appear that she was under a spotlight. I also used a "leading line" and repetition of the dancers' feet and legs to (hopefully) bring the viewer's eye to the subject.

Per the advice of my instructor, I tried to keep the subjects simple. So, what simpler subject than my daughter's curls? I wish I could have gotten more of her face in this one.

The one below is from the end of class when the girls await their hand stamps. They can only get their hands stamped if they are seated with their hands on their heads. This was the only time they were actually sitting still! I call this one "Bras de Quatre" (Arms of Four, a play on Pas de Quatre from the ballet, Swan Lake):
I'm not sure why I like this one so much. I can identify with the girl with her head up. It's a trust thing...
Okay, so here is my first attempt at "2nd curtain" (a setting on my camera that tells the flash to wait until the shutter closes. When used with a long exposure, you get a ghosting effect behind the person (if they are moving forward).   Notice the blur behind my daughter, Logan (far left) and above the two girls in front (who are moving down during the exposure). I think it's hilarious that Avery (back row) did not move at all during this shot. Not my favorite image, but different.

This one gives me hope that cool shots are actually possible with a long exposure:

I love this one. She is mugging in the mirror. I entitled this one "Feeling Beautiful."

Here are a few shots I took of my kids on Mother's Day. (My camera does take color photographs!) Avery is perplexed as to why Logan won't hug her. Logan is mad that she stole her mermaid crown and equally perplexed as to why a hug would be appropriate.

Photo A Day: Week 1

As an early Mother’s Day gift this year, I gave myself a photojournalism class (Photo A Day) at the Charleston Center for Photography. My sweet husband and two daughters gave me something equally wonderful and thoughtful, but they don’t realize that the best gift is themselves.  In a way, this class (and my obsession with photography) will help me achieve the level of proficiency that is worthy of documenting my family’s journey. 
In this Photo A Day class, we were assigned the task of creating a blog to record our journey in the 6-week long class and beyond. My instructor, Alice Keeney (who is fabulous), has given us great feedback on our work.  We are learning a lot about classic photojournalists, composition and light.  Here is an example of a shot of my youngest daughter during her dance class last week:
Alice made the following suggestions:
1. Convert to B&W to remove the distracting colors and greenish color cast  (I’ll get you my pretties, and your little dog too!)
2. Focus the attention on her face using a vignette and dodging (lightening) the exposure on her face. Tip: History brush in Photoshop is a wonderful thing!
3. Increase the contrast by adjusting the image levels and correcting in curves.

This is the result:

 Still a work in progress. She also suggested capturing motion by slowing down the shutter speed and trying a "2nd curtain" a.k.a. "rear curtain" setting on my Speedlight. I'll post more on that for Week 2.

Here are some other photos from dance class last week:

Other highlights of the week: Cinco de Mayo

And, I saved the best for last. I had a wonderful opportunity to photograph a friend's newborn baby. She is precious!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Other Hats: Science Geek & Ballet Teacher

I have worked in the cancer research field for over a decade. My data recording methods have always involved some form of photography; from microscopy of fluorescing cells to 3D MRI image stacks to pancreatic tumors that glow like fireflies. My job has always involved generating the best captivating image of my observations. In many ways, scientific technique is an art form (ask any scientist who has developed autoradiography film in a dark room and they will concur).

Besides photography, my major artistic outlet has been ballet. I started out as a dance and biology double-major in college. By the time I finished my degree, and reality set in, I was a biology major with a dance hobby.  I still dance, but just once a week as an instructor for an introductory ballet class for adults. Since this is the only ballet class at this particular facility, we have students from all experience levels.  Some have danced since they were itty bitty, and some have never taken a single dance class in their lives.  These brand new students often share their self-doubt and foolish feelings from trying ballet as an adult. "How can I stand here next to these ballerinas and look half as graceful?" they would tell me. My response would be, "Watch. Learn. Then, be patient with yourself."  These things take time and commitment.

Learning a new art is so much like learning how to walk for the first time. It takes time to build your strength, lots of perseverance and, unfortunately, a lot of falling flat on your butt.

I can empathize with these students when I compare myself to other photographers. Indeed, how can I stand here next to these amazing artists and perform half as gracefully?
Then I can take my own advice... which is sometimes the hardest pill to swallow:

Watch, learn and be patient with myself.


Almost five years ago, my first daughter was born.  The first week of her life was exhausting, exhilarating and everything I had ever (and never) imagined it would be. One sleep-deprived night - after she fed for what seemed like the twentieth time that day - I looked down at my little girl, ran my hand over her soft newborn hair and wished, with every ounce of my being, that I could keep her that small and sweet forever. The next morning, we had her first of many photo shoots. Bright morning light poured in the window. Baby laying on daddy’s hands over a soft white blanket. I still get choked up looking at this picture and seeing her eyes looking back at me - that old soul saying, "see Mom, you can have me this small and sweet forever".

I took my first online photography class during my maternity leave. I craved a better understanding of "painting with light" and immersed myself in the subject. Once my daughter started moving, my patience with my point & shoot camera was wearing thin. The shutter speed was never fast enough. I had no control over the image other than where I was standing and when I pushed the button. I yearned to achieve those amazingly sharp images that are only consistently possible in manual mode. For my 31st birthday, my husband purchased my first digital SLR camera and I never looked back.