Thursday, December 31, 2009

DT 13.2 - Blogging Non-School Related Photos

In a scant few days, it's back to getting up at 7 a.m. every morning. I'm considering doing that thing my parents made me do when I was a kid, and summer vacation was drawing to a close - starting to go to bed early now, just to get back into the swing of things. However, it being New Years Eve today, I'll think I'll get on that... later. The break has been good, though. Here are some of the things I've been up to.

Taking pictures of my friends' animals was one activity. Pets seem to be everywhere. This particular dog is very intelligent. A few moments after taking this photo, she said to me, "Get that damn camera outta my face." (In English.)

This is my sister's cat, Sonic. My nephew named him Sonic because he can run at super-sonic speeds. However, that was before they moved from a house into an apartment and Sonic entered middle-age in cat years. Now Sonic is the size a football and doesn't run at all unless I chase him with a vacuum cleaner.

This is my sister expressing her feelings about me chasing her cat with a vacuum cleaner.

This is my nephew. This was taken at a family gathering a few days after Christmas. I think this is a cool window light portrait. My nephew can be very serious at times...

...for example, he has a serious problem with gummi worms. But, one of our main activities as a family during the holiday is eating tons of food, so go ahead kid, knock yourself out.

Another favourite activity over the holidays is drinking wine. I had had a few glasses by the time I took this photo. I chose this particular depth-of-field because it's a fairly good representation of how I was actually seeing things at this point.

My nephew got a Wii system for Christmas. Here, he is playing a (serious) game of Wii tennis, or cow racing, or something. Note the glass of wine in the background.

Nothing says family togetherness like a good game of world domination. This is the state of play after the fifth hour of a game of Risk. I'm about to invade Irkutsk. I was drunk with power.

"After the Fall of Irkutsk"
And she thought she could invade invade Eastern Canada with impunity. Notice the pain with which she is clutching her side. It hurts to lose Irkutsk, doesn't it?

This photo was taken at my step-son's taekwondo school's Christmas party. This is a friend's daughter. She likes to pretend she doesn't want her photo taken - just like cats "pretend" they don't like being chased by vacuum cleaners.

So, that's about it. I'm off to a New Years party just down the street. Gotta love those parties that you can just walk to, and stumble home. See you next year!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

AT 11.2 Karsh - Jonah O'Neil - Group A - Analog Techniques

Title of photo: Pablo Casals, 1954

Link to photo:

On the technical side of things, Karsh was a master of the "inspection" technique for developing negatives, which is suited for 4x5" and larger film, and involves developing negatives by hand, traditionally under a green safelight, to produce optimal highlights in specific areas of the image. Karsh used this technique to create negatives that have significant tonality. "Pablo Casals, 1954" definitely shows significant tonality, which can be seen in the stone wall, the floor, and in subject's clothing.

Like the majority of Karsh's work, this photo is high in contrast - the highlights are very bright and the shadows are quite dark - for example, the highlights around the subjects head, shoulders, and arms versus the shadows on his back. So I'm going to go out on a limb here, and suggest that he used the magenta filter. He may have employed split contrasting because, while the figure in the chair shows quite a bit of contrast, the wall in front of him does not show a lot of contrast.

It looks to me that Karsh dodged the stone wall quite since it is so much brighter than the dark areas in the photo. It would also appear that he burned in the area of the wall around the subject's head, shoulders and torso, giving the subject a frame of darker tones, and separating him from the background quite nicely. That's pretty cool now that I'm looking at the photo again. Huh. Inspiring even.

I think this is a great composition. To begin with, it's a bit of an anomaly for Karsh to have his subject facing away from the camera. But this makes sense considering Pablo Casals' background and what Karsh wished to portray. Casals was a Spanish cellist who refused to perform in any county that officially recognized the Franco dictatorship. As Karsh put it, Casals was a"voluntary prisoner", and the setting and composition of this photo certainly brings to mind a prisoner sitting in a cell. And the fact that Casals is facing away from the viewer suggests that he has turned his back on Franco and those who recognize him.

Other compositional elements that I like are:
- The implied line from the window to Casals which suggests at first that it is light from the window that is illuminating the subject and the floor, but which must have been from another source.

- The natural frame along the left side made by what might either be a curtain or part of a door frame, giving the impression that we are peaking in on the subject and catching a private moment.

- The tension caused by the back chair legs extending just beyond the edge of the frame.

- The tension caused by not lining the chair up with the lines on the stone floor.

- The tension caused by the shadow underneath the subject and the chair, because that's not a shadow being cast by the subject himself. I can't for the life of me figure out what that shadow is.

- The aforementioned burning around Casals providing a nice frame for the subject.

- The fly sitting on the back of the chair. This is hard to see in the photo online, but at the WAG it was actually visible. Hard to say, though, if Karsh managed to capture that elusive moment and got behind the fly's mask to portray its true self. I bet he did.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

CI 12 Colour Block

I asked a friend of mine to view each of the images, and asked her to respond specifically to the colours in each image. This is what she had to say.

Colour Block - Red (red background with text):
"It gives me a headache. It's bright and energetic. Jarring, but interesting."

Colour Block - Blue (kitten playing on chair):
"It soothing and comfortable."

Colour Block - Yellow (flowers in painting):
"It reminds me of summer. It's warm and inviting."

Colour Block - Orange (dried flowers):
"I find this one unemotional."

Similar Colour Relationship (orange cat with orange in background):
"It's relaxing and soft."

Complementary Colour Relationship (green pear on red background):
"I love it. It's energetic but not jarring. It's artistic and interesting. It draws your yey to the pear. It makes me hungry."

I found it interesting that some of the adjectives and emotions she described are very close, and sometimes exactly, what was described in class as the emotional and physiological affects of specific colours.

For example, in reaction to the colour red, my friend used the word "energetic", which was also used in class. She said this photo gave her a headache, which could be a reaction to a colour that is aggressive and connotes danger.

Similarly, reacting to the blue photo, my friend described feeling soothed and comfortable, which could be expected from a colour that is tranquil and serene.

What was also interesting was what my friend did not describe. She did not indicate that she felt a coolness or a sense a loneliness or sadness in reaction to the blue photo. What this tells me is that perhaps you can predict person's reaction to a particular colour in a general sense only. A person's emotional reaction probably has as much to do with their own particular experiences as it does to what we feel in a general cultural sense. Also, the subject matter of a particular photo is important. The blue photo depicts a kitten playing with a toy - you might be hard pressed to find a person that would find that subject matter depressing. Unless they've recently lost a cat. Which plays back into an emotional response based on an individual's experience.

The most positive response was to the complimentary colours photo. I get the feeling that was due partly to the fact that perhaps complimentary colour works very well in a simple composition, and partly because that photo might be the nicest composition out of the bunch.

Monday, October 26, 2009

CI Field Trip 1

Psychedelic baby strollers, frogs, ginormous gold fish, and pink flamingos. No, this is not Transcona. This is... the Winnipeg zoo.

I don't like zoos generally; most of the animals seem sad at best, and certifiably insane at worst. So I headed for the amphibians and fish, because I really can't tell how they're feeling.

I especially had fun with the biggest gold fish I have ever seen. I think technically they're carp, or something, but I like to think of them as guppies on 'roids. They were great for photographing movement.

I hung with a tree frog for a while because he didn't move much, and I could try out some zoom bursts.

There was some kind of tropical bird behind bars that worked well for creatively throwing things out of focus.

The pink flamingos fought a lot - I think the pink gruel they were drinking might have been fermented. I tried to capture them actually fighting, but no joy. I did end up with a couple of cool shots though.

And i think it might actually be impossible to do a good job photographing cockroaches under red heat lamps - that's either a technical issue I have yet to overcome, or my own revulsion, so I didn't include those photos.

In any case, it was a fun trip. Here is a link to the slideshow:
CI Field Trip 1

Friday, October 23, 2009

AT 6.2 Photographic Hero: Yousuf Karsh

Yousuf Karsh used large-format cameras, specifically Rolleiflex TLRs, which produced both 8x10" and 4x5" negatives. This allows for much more detail and sharpness than standard 35mm negatives. By looking at his photos, I'd say he used film which had fine grain structure, and considering that Karsh's career began in the 1930s, he would have been using relatively slow films, which would also indicate fine grain structure.

Karsh is most famous for his portraits, of course, and the style can be described as formal. What is unique about Karsh's style is his use of light to model his subjects' faces in an almost sculptural fashion, using a lot of backlighting and sidelighting. His work is high in contrast - the highlights are very bright and the shadows are quite dark.

Karsh generally cropped quite close into the subject, at most showing the upper body and often just the head and shoulders. Generally there is very little background, so as not to distract from the subject, and he used no props or decorations that might attract attention away from the central figure of the portrait. In cases where he did use a background, it is usually simple—frequently black. Most of Karsh's work would not be considered environmental portraits. In the photos that might be considered environmental, it is achieved with minimal and straightforward clues.

Karsh became a master of the "inspection" technique for developing negatives, which was the method of choice of most professionals well into the 1930s, the time frame in which Karsh began his career. The inspection technique, really only suited for 4x5" and larger film, involves developing negatives by hand, traditionally under a green safelight, to produce optimal highlights in specific areas of the image. Development by inspection is not used much anymore in favour of time and temperature development, which is considered more more precise and more repeatable. The inspection technique, however, allows complete and total control over every image. When using this technique, you must judge through the base of the negative rather than the emulsion side. Since the shadow areas are difficult to judge using this technique, you always judge the hightlight, rather than the shadow densities. The gist of the technique is to pull the negative from the developer when the highlights appear as substantial black. To guard against overdevelopment, you have to learn not to allow the high values to get too dark. Karsh used this technique to create negatives that have significant tonality.

3 of Karsh's portraits

Tennessee Williams:
From AT 6.2 Photographic Hero: Yousuf Karsh

I feel that this photo is a great example of Karsh's minimal use of props and background in a photo that could described as environmental. The only clue to the subject's profession is the inclusion of a typewriter, from which you could gather that he is a writer. However, one does not know what kind of writer, thus one's interest is piqued. The lighting around the subject's shoulders gives definition and separates the subject from a background which is similar in tone to the clothing. The subject's gaze follows the line of smoke which hovers above his head, and the viewer's eye is drawn around the circle made by the water glass, typewriter, lamp, and the subject's face.

From AT 6.2 Photographic Hero: Yousuf Karsh

I think the photo of President Kennedy shows Karsh's ability at subtle tonal control. At first glance, the subject appears to be the same tone as the background, but as you take a longer look, you realize that you can see every pore in his face, the structure of his nose, all his veins - you can "feel" the subject of the photo. This photo also demonstrates Karsh's keen sense of societal symbols. Kennedy's face is in profile, turned toward very direct frontlighting, perpendicular to the camera, and he is gazing towards the light with his hands almost in a prayer-like gesture, symbolizing America's time of hope and a President who successfully blended secular and religious sentiments.

From AT 6.2 Photographic Hero: Yousuf Karsh

This is probably Karash's most famous portrait. It is definitely the most famous portrait of Winston Churchill, and came to be a public symbol of Britain's dogged determination during World War II. I think the background lighting here is amazing - the particular square in the wall that frames the subject's head and shoulders is lit from the interior of the frame, unlike all the other squares in the wall which are dark along the interiors. Again, the backlighting separates the subject's shoulders from the background quite nicely. Karsh only had two minutes to make Churchill's portrait, and he managed to capture the "Churchill scowl". Karsh captured that aspect of Churchill's character by plucking Churchill's cigar from his mouth moments before taking the photo, and the viewer might be left wondering if Churchill is a bulldog, or a petulant baby.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

CI Composition at Home

I found this assignment somewhat challenging for two reasons.

Firstly, as was the point of the assignment, trying to find interesting subject matter in a very familiar environment. It took a while to get into the swing of it, but once I did, things moved fairly quickly. At first, I was wondering around the house looking at everything, which was not productive. What worked, though, was sitting in one place, and letting my mind and gaze wander around the room. Soon enough, I would notice something interesting - the play of light on an object, or the possibility of an interesting composition - and I work with that particular setting for a while, then move on to something else.

Secondly, we had people in and out of the house all weekend. There was a kids' party, which also became an adults' party, sleepovers, and people just dropping in - a busy house - which didn't lend itself to photographing this assignment.

Monday, September 28, 2009

CI 1.3 "Working the Subject...100 Creative Ways"

From CI 1.3 "Working the Subject...100 Creative Ways"

Reflections on the experience of shooting this assignment...

I loved the experience of focusing intently and shooting my three objects from all sorts of different angles, f-stops, shutter speeds, depths-of-field, focal lengths and so on. I purposely chose three objects with which I felt I could tell a story. Once I set up the first scene, I found that there was essentially no end to the possibilities of different feelings and moods that could be conveyed by using different depths-of-field, and framing within the shots. The assignment went quickly, and I wanted to take more than 100 shots.

One of my three objects was a dragon statue with a long, curved tail. I found it effective to crop the tail (in-camera) at certain points along the curves of tail, feeling that the direction of the tail outside the frame would be implied by the portions of the tail that were inside the frame. I also found that the tail itself made a nice natural framing within some of the photos. By thoughtful use of depth-of-field, I was able to choose which elements of each photo would be in or out of focus. Sometimes the particular depth-of-field used was effective, and sometimes not. Likewise, in-camera cropping produced results that sometimes worked, sometimes not. In the cases where cropping did not work, it was because either not enough, or too much, of the particular element was included within the frame.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

DT 2.1 Lines - Check out my slideshow

I found the main challenge while shooting this assignment to be the quality of the light. Because of time constraints, I found myself shooting, for the most part, from around 3:00 pm until around 4:30 pm (or there-abouts). The light wasn't the best. I did get out and shoot in the evening as well, and I had fun playing with some longer exposures and the lines made by the tail lights of cars and the lines of streetlights.

Another challenge is getting used to shooting in JPEG. Up until now, I've only been shooting in RAW, and it pains me to post unedited, untouched photos. But this is what I'm here to learn, isn't it - how to nail the shot to begin with. Also, remembering to check the white balance with each shot; in RAW you can change that after the fact without altering the quality of the photo.

An interesting experience I noticed when reviewing the photos is that the very first one I took for the assignment - the one with the wooden fence casting shadows on the sidewalk - is I think the most interesting of the lot. It has a definite rhythm and texture to it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Digi Techniques - Lesson 2 - In Class Activity

My favourite genre of photography? I guess if I had to name one, it would be "abstract photography". Abstract (adj.): of or pertaining to the formal aspect of art, emphasizing lines, colors, generalized or geometrical forms, etc., esp. with reference to their relationship to one another. From that point of view, you could say that a close-up of a bug's eye could be an abstract of the whole bug. A landscape of the Gunn Creek valley in Riding Mountain Nat'l Park is an abstract of the earth. And a photo of our planet is an abstract of the universe. So, I figure I've got the bases covered. So, there it is.

As for what I hope to learn in school this year... I want to gain confidence in my shooting, particularly if shooting for a client. I also want to learn to use on-camera flash, flash in general, and be able to make great portraits using flash. News flash: I'm not so great with flash. Lightroom is another thing I am very keen on learning. (Bridge sucks... I knew that on some level, but it has now become abundantly clear.)

One of my photographic memories would be from Thailand and framing up a good shot. It was good enough that I had to get my partner at the time to look through the camera so I could show it to her. When I picked up the photos from the lab, the woman working there said, "Hey, this here photo, you should enter it in our 'Picture Summer and Win! (TM)' contest." So I did, not thinking much of it. Some months later, I got a phone call saying I had one first place in my category, and they gave me a Nikon F60. Which was pretty sweet since I was already a Nikon shooter, having purchased my first serious camera - a Nikon FM10 - specifically for that trip to Thailand.