Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Snow Days 2

Thanks everyone for the photo feedbacks.  I've been trying to go back to follow the advice given.  If you check back next week, I'll update this post with your feedback so that you can see if it makes a difference or not! 

This is another photo from last week's snow days. Honestly, I'm not sure why this photo caught my eye from the dozens that I shot that day.  I like the small snow shelf created by the branches.  They somehow seem to cradle the delicate snowflakes.  You can just see the hint of spring buds on some of the branches.  Maybe it is a sense of springtime hope or the momentary pause to take in one last gasp of winter beauty before the full jump to spring.  what do you see?

Rev 2 - based on feedback, I lightened it and changed to B&W.  I had an issue when I lightened things that the background in the upper right started to blow out.  To minimize the impact, I cropped a bit more of that corner.  Now I'm a bit too centered vertically.  I should have added a flash or taken the photo earlier than my twilight shot.  Next time.  :)  B&W is good, but different.  In B&W, you lose the spring buds on the branch. 


Friday, March 23, 2012

Snow Days

This week, western Oregon was treated to a rare snow storm.  A light dusting of snow arrives here only every 2-3 years.  We were surprised by this massive snow dump on the first day of spring. 

I struggled to get a clean focus through the snow.  Apparently, I should have gone into manual focus!  This image brings some happy memories.  Megan tested our zip line in the snow, taking a few snow balls on the way.  As she approached the sudden stop at the bottom, she forgot that the seat would be slippery.  This image captures the unusual snow, the zip line, our snowball target practice, and the sudden look of panic as she realized her error.  The blur works for this photo - showing her speed. 

For the record, she landed in a giggling heap on the ground.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Week 11 - Night Ball

This seems to be the week to share a photo of our children on Photo Feedback.  I've really enjoyed this forum as a place to get some critical feedback on photos.  What an amazing group of photographers who are willing to put their images out for discussion!

I spent last weekend coaching my daughter's softball team.  This is a very serious team - practicing all winter and braving the cold rains of Oregon springtime just for a change to hit the ball.  Last weekend, we played our first night game.  Her messy hair gives a hint that this is the 3rd game of the day.  In spite of that, I love the calm look on Jamie's face.  She is simply relaxing, taking in the thrill of the lights.  And a little light flair to add to the composition.  :)

From some of the feedback, I did a bit more editing.  I'm amazed at how a little edit makes a difference!  Here is how it looks with the suggestions: 

Original version

Lights in lower right removed. 
Increased blue saturation and reduced red saturation

Further cropped to increase focus on her face 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Week 10 - Joshua Tree

This week's photo comes from Joshua Tree National Park. 

Similar to my photos from Pulau Ubin, I like the sense of survival from Joshua Tree.  The rocky desert is inhospitable.  Yet, there are gardens of cactus and forests of Joshua Trees.  I like this image for the color contrast between the blue sky and the tan rock.  The simplicity of the Joshua tree that connects the two.  I love the depth of the rocky landscape - and the memory of my family climbing up and down the rocks for the day. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Week 9 - Impact

As much fun as I had doing photography in Singapore, I really missed photos of people.  In fact, one of my favorite shots from Singapore was a simple portrait of a young girl from the streets of Little India. 

Resting in her mother's arms and dressed for some kind of celebration.  She is so comfortable, yet aware and a bit curious.  I got the feeling that my brief photo session was a welcome break from waiting for the celebration. 

As much as I like the color and gaze of this child, I am more proud of this next photo.  On the surface, it isn't anything special - a basketball shot, where I was lucky enough to be close to the player.  But what makes me really proud is the player.  This is one of the 'developing' players on the team.  She is frequently found ambling downcourt after fast breaks - reversing near half court - only to reverse again before she finds her defensive assignment.  But for this moment, she is in the game.  She is ready and she is a star.  I sent this photo to her mom.  At the next game, her performance skyrocketed.  She believed that she was a star. 

I've read articles about great photographers making an impact.  Most of us take pictures.  But great photos happen when we decide what we want to do with our photos.   When we choose a cause in the world to impact.  Global warming, save the chickens, or whatever.  My impact is the self-confidence of my subjects.  The belief that they can be a star.  The belief that they are already a star.  After all, it must be true.  If their stardom is already captured in a photo, it already is true!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Week 8 - Stairway

I'm joining a weekly photo feedback group.   Part of my goal of my Photo 52 challenge is to share my photos and gather more feedback.  I have to admit that both sides of the feedback area a bit uncomfortable for me.  But I also know that I want to take my photography skills from good to great and that takes feedback. 

Week 8 and I'm wrapping up my photos from my Singapore trip.  This week is another shot from Pulau Ubin.  As I walked the wetlands boardwalk, I was surprised to find this overgrown staircase.  It was well cleared in its day.  I wonder what caused it to be abandoned.  How long has it gone unused?  I love that is it the hidden surprise in this photo.  I really see a rocky coastline shadowed by the lush greenery.  It is easy to skip over, but then I notice the steep staircase.  I'd would have loved to explore it!   

I believe that each one of us holds our own hidden staircase.  It might be part of our own overgrown history.  But it is still something special.  And that abandoned staircase is just waiting for someone to climb it to see the spectacular view that is just over the hill. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Week 7.5 - Silhouettes

A bonus post this week so that I can participate in the Silhouette challenge from the Kat Eye View
Both of these photos comes from Pulau Ubin - a small island off of Singapore.  I spent a fabulous day mountain biking around the island and taking photos.  I had an ah-ha moment as I attempted to compose photos there.  My history of sports photography has been trying to remove extra people and clutter from a shot.  But with landscapes, the composition is more about what I choose to leave in the image. 

The calmness of the island was a total contrast to the heavy population of the Singapore mainland.   This bay was so calm and quiet that I nearly missed the boat home as I relaxed on the sea wall. 

This amazing tree stands in the middle of the island.  I love the lace-like quality of the branches and the strength of the straight trunk.  How long has this tree graced this earth?  What an amazing reminder of Mother Nature's capability to produce something so perfect. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Week 7 - Plain Silly

I'm still traveling to Singapore.  Earlier this week, I (along with 500 tripod toting photographers) went to take sunset shots of the city skyline.  Singapore has a beautiful setup - beautiful skyline that includes small traditional buildings flanked by modern skyscrapers and a beautiful bay just made for reflections.  Taking a great night shot was like shooting fish in a barrel.  You just couldn't miss.  But my favorite photo of the night was the small flower just sticking his tongue out at me.  Can you believe it would do such a thing?!

I love how Singapore seamlessly blends its history with its modern self.  In this nightscape, you can see the historic Fullerton hotel and the iconic Merlion in front of the broader cityscape. 

Again, an amazing blend of past and present.  This time, a fisherman in the middle of the waterway.  This area is commonly used for tours.  Amazingly, this guy sat and fished while the tours went around him. 

I don't often do night photos and even more rare that I have a tripod, so I played some with zoomed time exposures.  It gives the city a sort of 'batman' quality. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Week 6 - Photo Heart Connection

This week I'm responding to a prompt from Kat Sloma of Kat Eye View.  Her challenge is to pick a photo that you like.  It may not be technically the best, but it should somehow brings you joy or brings you back to look again - A photo that simply touches you. 

This is a shot that I took this week on Pulau Ubin - a small island near Singapore.  I find this photo an odd mix - the hopeful green with the grey background.  The calm ocean waters  verses the chaotic glare of the wetlands.  The thriving bird life verses the lost tree.  Somehow, this survivor of a tree outlasted all other trees in this coastal wetland.  How did it survive the salt water that exposed its roots?  How did it ever grow in this location so far from its peers?  Whatever its past, it looks lonely.  Yet I can't help but think of it making the best of the situation, leaning toward the birds and playing in the mud!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Week 5 - Singapore nights

This week has been interesting for photography. First, I'm in Singapore on a business trip. I'm traveling alone which means that I have plenty of time to explore and take photos. On the other hand, I don't have my children or sports team to photograph, so I've been a bit out of my comfort zone. Even more, my free time is largely after dark. While I understand how to do night shots, I've not played much trying to get nice effects. I just don't have the mental starting point of what appature, shutter, and ISO will give me the effect that I like. And I have to admit that I'm not much of one to carry a tripod! So Friday night in Singapore, I headed down the main shopping street - Orchard Road - intent on really composing some nice night shots. I feel great about the effort. It was the first time that I was able to intentionally create bokeh.  Yeah for me! 

Singapore is a very modern city filled with interesting buildings.  This is the entrance of a shopping mall.  This is my favorite shot of the night because of the straight lines of this building structure and the curve on the left.  The hint of the moon behind the clouds is an extra little touch.
The official end of the Chinese New Year is Feb 4, so there are still some holiday decorations.  It is sort of like the 12 days of Christmas.  The start of the CNY celebration was Jan 25, but there are some decorations remaining for the end of the holiday.  I'm told that in China, the holiday season is marked by a massive exodus from the coastal cities inland. There are annual stories of overfull trains and busses that cannont handle the rust of holiday travelers. 

I like color streaks of the cars in this image.  The blue and yellow come from the colorful Sinagpore taxi's.  As I post this, I realize that I might need to crop a bit more on the right side to get rid of the crosswalk and allow focus on the color.   

These lights were wound on some trees along the street.  The photo is a bit dark, but I like how the lines flow from one tree to the next. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Week 5 - Basketball

Week 5 of my 52 week journey is a trip back to my comfort zone. My daughter's basketball team played tonight. Over the years, I've been successful shooting soccer, softball, swimming, and surfing. Basketball has been trouble. I struggle with the low lighting, longer shutter speeds, and lack of lens length. The quick motions make it difficult to get a clear shot. Timing is everything in sports and basketball is fast with lots of bodies.

Tonight, I put my new 85mm f1.4 prime lense to the test. Combined with the high iso capability of my Nikon D3Si and I was finally able to get some good action shots. I still had to adjust the color temperature, but I was able to get my shutter speed up to the 1/500 sec range to stop the action.

This shot caught my eye for the focus in my daughter's eye. She made a great move to get open for this shot. She is at her full extention and you can just see the ball rolling off of her finger - a skill that she has been working on for a while. This is her best. This is MY daughter. I couldn't be prouder.

A couple of other shots from the day:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Week 4 - Snow Days

I'm happy to say that I've made it through the first four weeks of my photo blog! They say that it takes 6 weeks to create a habit, so I'm nearly there.

This week's photos come from a rare snow day. My home town gets snow every few years. With such rare occurances, the whole town stops. We all play childish abandon knowing that it will quickly melt away. The play starts early morning - school or not - with a snowball fight. If we are lucky, the snow lasts long enough for a snowman. This was a great year with the snow lasting long enough for a morning photo walk before the melt.

The photo walk created an interesting photo exercise for me. I typically do sports photography where a 'good' photo is more a matter of timing than composition. As a result, I've never taken time to understand what I really love in a photo. But on snow day, I took photos of snowmen and snowballs, snowy scenes, and snowflakes. All of the photos were composed shots of beauty in the world around me. At first, all the photos were 'beautiful.' So how do you filter from the good to the great shots in the batch?

The engineer in me tends to analyze. Composition, contrast, lighting, angle, perspective. But today, I chose by the photo that I liked - I may not know why, but just what I liked. The one that I keep coming back to is a photo of a hastily made snowman. The photo isn't particularly compelling, but I love the footprints. One of the kids walked up, placed the snowman, and quickly ran off. I'm jealous of their spontaneity - Their only concern is running off to make another snowball before the melt.

Some of the other shots had more beauty, but maybe that isn't what I need. Maybe I just need the reminder to relax and make a snowman.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Week 3 - Elusive Fire

Week 3 and I have to admit that I'm struggling to take photos every week. I've been too 'busy' to take photos. Busy camping, riding quads, and working. But I miss the creative piece of life that I get with photography. I love the quiet centering of having a camera in my hand. For landscapes and set shots, it is a time to simply appreciate the beauty around me. For sports photography, I can focus completely on capturing the moment of athletic greatness. Time stops when a camera is in my hand - and I need more of that in my life. Maybe that was why I committed to 52 photos this year - To force myself into the time warp.

This week was a bit of a missed opportunity for me. We spent last weekend at the sand dunes at the Oregon coast. I could have captured the incredible sunset over the dunes, fading into the sea. I could have captured the highly skilled riders soaring off of a jump. Or maybe taken some night photos as the full moon illuminated the dunes. But instead, I worked with an illusive subject for me - the campfire.

Fires are tough. First, you don't always get to compose your shot. After all, you want a roaring fire. Second, the brightness of a fire presents a challenge. and Finally, the flames in a fire are dynamic - sometimes showing very yellow, sometimes very orange. Photos taken with the same settings only moments apart have totally different composition. I was without a tripod, so I was limited to very high ISO. Luckily my camera is awesome, so I could get away with it. :)

Of my fire photos, this is the one that I liked best. I like the sense of quiet calm that I get from this photo. I think of the time right before bed. The kids have gone and I can listen to the quiet crackle of the fire. Composition wise, I remembered to use the rule of thirds on this photo, but I clipped the corner of the fire. I like the angles provided by the logs on the fire, but it might have been better from a lower angle.

I was intrigued by the glowing embers, but could never get a composition that I liked. Here is the best of the batch...

Friday, January 6, 2012

Week 2 - Not sure why I like it!

Here it is Friday again, and I haven't picked up my camera in a week! I don't want to give up on my 52-photos-a-year, so I'm going into the archive. This photo is one that I took several years ago near the Seattle Space Needle. I've always thought it was cool, but I've never really understood what I liked about it.

One thing that I like about it is the reminder of the weekend in Seattle. I went with my girls and MIL to see the musical CATS. In one of those oddball circumstances, we had just been to that area with our girl scout troop the week before. But on this trip, we spent Sunday morning wondering around, climbing on sculptures, and giggling. This sculpture was the base for a good game of peek-a-boo.

On the photo side, I like the mystery around this photo. The small depth of field accentuates the mystery. What is this thing? The vertical lines leaning both directions - nothing is out of balance.

One thing that I don't like - this photo seems to have no subject. What is it a picture of? While it interests me, I can't see it going onto my wall. It seems a bit boring. What do you think?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Taking a Weekly Photo Challenge

My goal for 2012 is 52 weeks of photos.  I've always hesitated about posting my photos.  I've always assumed that the only people interested in my images are my family or friends.  I take photos for our kids sports teams and the parents love getting the great photos of the kiddos in action.  My pictures are better than average, but not as good as my semi-pro friend,Katrina. So this year, I'm committing to one photo a week.  One photo that I like more than the rest.  One photo that I'm willing to share.  No rules about following a theme, but if it works out, I'll try to submit it somewhere...

The first week is an image from Christmas morning. My daughter's hair was in curlers overnight. In the morning, she had a head full of beautiful, thick curls.

I took many photos of my two girls that morning.  This one stood out for a few reasons.  First, the sparkle in her eye and smile.  She just knows that she looks fantastic.  And she has that happy Christmas glow - nothing could be better.  Second, I like the black and white stripes in the background.  Those stripes come from my SIL's shirt.  Since she put the girls hair up, I like the reminder of her presence.

I've struggled with composition and technical questions, so I'm going to try to include some analysis with each photo.  If nothing else, I'll think about it myself.  I invite your comments and suggestions so that I can keep learning. 

 - Background lines align with the eyes. 
 - Curls bring vision back toward the face.

Could be better
 - Polka Dots are a bit distracting
 - Cropping seems a bit uneven - cropped the forehead, but not the chin
 - May still be a bit too centered