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My husband and I were talking last night, and he started telling me about his favourite three photos he has ever taken. I totally agreed with two of his three choices. They were beautiful photos, and some of the best work he has done. I had to disagree with him on the third photo however. The photo is of a wasp eating, a piece of chicken that was left in the parking lot behind where he works. The wasp is supposed to be the subject of the photo, but doesn’t even take up a tenth of the frame. The piece of chicken however is the brightest spot in the photograph, and not even recognizable as a piece of chicken. Why on earth did he consider this one of his favourite photos?

After  telling him that I disagreed with him, in a much more kind and considerate way than I did here, it got me to thinking there must be a reason that he loved the photo so much. Then it dawned on me; favourite does not equal good. I have photos that I love because of the memory they invoke, but they suck compositionally. With this new mindset I asked him if he though the photograph was good, or if it was an important photo. He realized that it wasn’t the image itself that was significant, it was the realization that he could get a sharp image with his camera, even if it wasn’t as good as my camera.

This got me to thinking about my favourite photos. They are all ones from which I learned something significant.

The following photo was the first time I attempted to reduce light falling on a subject with the use of flags.

Nikon D700 24-70mm @70mm f/2.8 1/80sec, ISO 1600

Nikon D700 24-70mm @70mm f/2.8 1/80sec, ISO 1600

This photo was taken as an example of using a cool colour (blue) to recede in the photograph. However it was the first time I understood how you could take an ugly surrounding and make a beautiful photograph by changing your perspective. To get this photograph I took a large rock that I found in a parking lot, placed it on a chair and got down low so that the background would be all sky, and not the ugly parking lot.

Nikon D700 24-70mm @70mm f/5.6 1/1600, ISO 200

Nikon D700 24-70mm @70mm f/5.6 1/1600, ISO 200

The following photo, took about 20 trips to the park and several swift kicks to my head, literally as my son swung over top of me. From this I learned that sometimes it’s worth getting kicked in the head.

Nikon D300 50mm f/8 1/800, ISO 200

Nikon D300 50mm f/8 1/800, ISO 200

Nikon D300 105mm ISO 400 f4 1/1250

Nikon D300 105mm ISO 400 f4 1/1250

The way to know if a photo should be in colour of black & white is simple. If the photo is about the colour, it should be in colour; if its not, get rid of the distraction that colour causes. This is a paraphrase of something I learned watching CreativeLive.

A couple of weeks ago my five year old son was playing in the sunbeam of the window, with the innocence that only young children have, and I captured the beautiful moment pictured above. When I took this photo I didn’t consider whether it should be in colour or black & white, however the minute I uploaded it to my computer I knew that while this photo was decent straight out of the can, it would be even better in black & white.

When this photograph is viewed in colour, you get distracted by the orange glow of his ear, the redness of his lips, and to a lesser extent the blue stitches above his right eye. However in black and white the photo is all about how the light plays on his face. To the trained eye of the photographer, the intercepting lines on his face lead your eye to his eye. To the untrained eye, the intercepting lines on his face let you know that he is playing near a window, without the need for it to be in the photograph.

Now I have made it sound like this the perfect photo, I know it is far from it. His face is almost smack dab in the centre of the frame, and it would be even better if I had framed his face lower and more to the left. It would be better if I had captured how he was holding onto the curtains, so you could see that he was playing with them.  I can tell you that the reason I didn’t frame it right was because I only got a chance to fire the shutter twice before he got bored and moved on to something else. I can tell you that the reason is because I have decided to see if using only my center focus point on my camera which has the cross-hair focus make a difference to my photos. I can tell you all of these things, but they don’t really matter. What matters is that I did capture a perfect moment in time, and know that the image has more impact in black & white than in colour.

What do you think?

Window Light 06

Image

Nikon D300 50mm f2.8 1/5000 ISO 200

My husband doesn’t like to let go of things. He likes to hold onto them, just in case. I hate clutter. This has been the root of many fights between my husband and I. I have found that when there is too much stuff around I just don’t know what to do with myself. I become overwhelmed and so I do nothing. This of course leads to the house getting exponentially messier, and my motivation is inversely related to the amount of mess/clutter around the house.

In this digital world it is easy to take as many photographs as you want. After all, the only cost out of pocket after you’ve purchased your camera is hard drive space, and that’s nothing in comparison to the cost of film. I have taken 11,112 photos since I procured my D300 in May, 2009. I am sure that I am not alone. I’m sure that many of you have taken at least that many if not more. But what do you do with them? Have you printed any of them? Do you even look at them anymore?

Tonight I realized that I print almost none of my photos, and I don’t even look at most of them. Every month or so I choose a recent album out of Aperture as my screen saver. My son loves seeing the photos of himself doing things from just a few weeks ago come up on the screen. But old photos from a few months ago (yes, I called photos from a few months ago old) I never look at. I realized that if I wasn’t looking at photos from a few months ago, I certainly wasn’t looking at photos from a year ago, or even older. So I figured I should do just that.

In 2009 I took 3722 photos; in 2010, 2854 photos; in 2011, 2875 photos. Now in 2012, I only snapped my shutter 870 times, just a third as many as in 2010 and 2011, but that was the year I was pregnant, and as I’ve mentioned it was a horrible pregnancy and I could hardly look after my 5 year old son, so picking up my camera was definitely out of the question. But I digress. Having taken about 3000 photos a year, it was just to many to sit down at look at, especially since many of those photos were not good. Sure, I removed the ones that were completely out of focus, but if they held any emotional meaning to me I kept them. Not only were there so many photos that it was over whelming, there were many, many duplicates.

Why am I holding on to all these photos? Sure, storage space is cheap and easy to come by, but is something really of any value when it’s stored away? In my house I keep a tight rein on how much stuff is stored in our basement. I do this for two reasons: the first is that space is limited, and the second is that when you hold on to too many things nothing is of value because you can’t find any of them. I can’t believe I hadn’t transferred this thinking into the storage of my photos.

So it’s time for me to cull the photos so that they can have value again, and stop hoarding them.

Note: The photo at the top of this post is one of the first photos I took with my Nikon D300.

The power of the S curve

Many years ago, before I even discovered my own passion for photography, I saw a nude photograph in a coffee shop that I has stayed with me. I often think about that photograph. The image was very different from any nude I had ever seen before. The image was clearly an art piece and done tastfully. The reason this image has stuck with me for so many years in a way that literally no other photography I have seen before, or since, is because this woman had a huge ugly scar that covered over half the length of her torso. The scar was jagged, thick and basically ugly. However the photographer managed to light this woman in such a way that her scar became the focus of the photograph. Not only was it the focus, but the photographer managed to make the scar a true thing of beauty. At the time I had no idea how you could do this, which of course is the talent of a true artist.

I now know that the image was light from the side the enhance the texture of the scar so it stood out. I know that the use of low key lighting added to the drama and intensity of the image. I know that the choice to take the image in black and white allowed the tone of the the scar to draw your eye in a way that a colour photograph never would. Finally, just today I figured out how the photographer transformed the scar from ugly to beautiful. It was very simple really, and yet for some reason it never made sense until today. The scar was an s-curve. I have read over and over about the s-curve, I have even photographed images using an s-curve to create a mood of serenity. However for some reason even though I knew that a woman always looks better when photographed in a way that enhances her own s-curvey body, I never truly realized how it could be used to transform something that is ugly and horrifying into a thing of  beauty.

I wish I could share the image with you, but I have no idea who the photographer was. If I did know, I would tract them down to try and purchase the piece for myself.

Time to restart Optic Bard

It has been almost 2 years since my last post. I’m sorry for neglecting you for so long. However, rather than dwell on the negative, let’s focus on the positve. Optic Bard is back up and running. I will try my hardest to post with regularity. Part of the reason that I haven’t posted in so long is because a year ago, quite unexpectedly I became pregnant. The pregnancy was very difficult on me, and I never really felt well enough to pick up my camera, and even when I did the images I was capturing didn’t inspire me in anyway. But that is behind me, and I’m ready to start up again.

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Nikon D300 105mm f4 1/320 ISO 400
Window light

I quit smoking almost 2 months ago. I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago in the post Digital photography changed the question. Quitting smoking is supposed to be one of the best things you can ever do. To put how I feel about the whole process of quitting smoking in perspective, I would rather go through the pain of child birth, than experience quitting smoking ever again. The idea that my health will improve, and supposedly my lifespan will increase should be enough motivation to get me through it, but it’s not. I knew I needed something much bigger than that, so after talking it over with my husband we agreed that if I made it to 6 months with out having a cigarette I would be able to buy the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 zoom lens. This was the perfect motivation for weeks 3-8 of quitting, but then I started to think, and I realized that 6 months would put it in September. The problem is that I want this lens for all the things I do in the summer. After all, 70-200mm is not really a lens I would use indoors very often. I knew that it wouldn’t be much of a reward to get it and not really use it for many months, and I didn’t know what to do. So finally I decided (with my husband’s encouragement) that I should buy the lens now, but with the understanding that if I start smoking before September 23, 2011 I would have to sell the lens.

In case you haven’t guessed, I got the lens, and so far I have just been playing with it. Here are a few photos that I was able to take that I would never have been able to get with my 24-70mm.

Nikon D300 70-200mm @ 185mm f13 1/200, ISO 200

I drive or walk past this flag almost everyday, and I never noticed until I took this photo how ratty the flag is. Despite the fact the I hadn’t noticed it before, it bothers me. I’m pretty sure you would never find any American that would fly a ratty flag, so why do Canadians think it’s okay?

Nikon D300 70-200mm @ 200mm f5 1/1000, ISO 200

NIkon D300 70-200mm @ 200mm f5 1/1000, ISO 200

NIkon D300 70-200mm @ 200mm f5 1/1000, ISO 200

This past week I lost all my confidence as a photographer. At the start of the week I was talking with a group of parents, and it came up that one person’s spouse was thinking about starting a photography business. When I asked what type of camera they used it came out that they were using a point and shoot. I couldn’t believe it. Here I am with what Nikon considers an Advanced DSLR, taking photos in manual mode, and taking a Creative Design course to learn the elements of composition, feeling like I am not ready to start my own photography business. And here was someone that truly believed they could start a photography business using a point and shoot. Then a couple nights ago in the photography course that I have been taking we were reviewing everyone’s focal point assignment, and looking around it seemed that everyone else’s photos were so much better than mine, and as far as I know only one of them was actually getting paid as a photographer.

At this point I was convinced that I was never going to actually become a professional photographer like I want to. Then yesterday I watched the first day of Penny De Los Santos’ 3 day Food Photography workshop on CreativeLive. I decided to watch the free live broadcast even though I don’t plan on becoming a food photographer, because I figured I’d at least learn something. Turns out that so far, this is the best workshop on Creative Live that I have watched. Penny started out talking about where she came from, and showing photos from her photography thesis, I assume for her degree from Ohio’s School of Visual Communication. I instantly loved her, her emotion was raw and right at the surface. In talking about the process of taking photos for her thesis there was a situation where she had the opportunity to photograph a fight in the woman’s prision. Penny was going to get the photo when her gut told her it wasn’t right, and when she turned around to walk away, she happened across a scene of a little girl dancing in the light of the prison window. The photo is amazing, and she talked about how it was in that moment that she realized how important it is to go with your intuition. (To see the photo go to her website and mouse over “Born into Cell Blocks”) Well in that moment I realized that I haven’t been listening to my intuition. As I have said, my goal is to become a professional photographer. There are many photographers out there that are comletely self taught. However I have felt for a long time that that isn’t the path for me. Going to school for photography is the route I need to take if I’m going to have success.

While there are many wonderful photographers that are self taught, most of the ones that truly inspire me personally went to school. I need to remember that everyone must follow their own path and my path is to go to school in a couple of years, and then get started in my photography career. Right now it is just fine for me to be taking amazing photos, and become a better photographer at my pace. When the timing is right things will happen.

Lunch while watching Creative Live's "Food Photography" on the patio

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