Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Apple Picking

I have had a secret desire to go apple picking ever since I decided four years ago to pursue photography whole-heartedly.

Now, please understand I have no desire to actually pick the apples, I want to photograph my loved ones picking apples.

For four years I have waited. Now with Mallory graduated from college and back home again, imagine my delight when she said she wanted to go apple picking on her birthday.

Her favorite apple is the Honey Crisp, and the picking of those had only begun the week before, so we had the timing just right.

The weather initially did not look favorable for her birthday, the forecast starting with 90% chance of rain, and then dropping to 80%, then to 60%. It did rain overnight, and the morning started out overcast, but by the time we finished breakfast at a new local restaurant, the clouds were parting and blue skies emerged.

I was excited to dig out my 85mm prime lens for this festive occasion. With Mallory home again, I think it will get a lot more use.

Happy 22nd Birthday to my beautiful girl!

Eventually, we had to get a wagon because we they had picked so many apples.

This moment warms my heart. Even though in reality they were probably arguing about who should be pulling the cart.

It was a wonderful day, and my apple picking photography desire has been satisfied, at least for this year.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Canon T6s Review

It was with great sadness that I boxed up my latest camera rental, the Canon T6s, from last week and returned it to them via Fed-Ex. I rented this camera for a ten day period, just as I had done with my first camera rental, the Fuji X-T1.

This time instead of taking the rental on a trip, I used it just as I would in my everyday life, which meant lots of mornings spent at the beach.

I tried a variety of my lenses on it, capturing some of my normal things like tug boats in the harbor, but I also put my underused telephoto lens on it and did a little wildlife shooting.

Now, I must admit that Canon is my comfort zone, as opposed to the Fuji that I tried the first time, and that may have flavored my happiness with the camera somewhat, but there were still some pros and cons to it.

First of all, the thing that I disliked the most about the Fuji X-T1, the LCD screen, is the thing I loved most about the Canon T6s. The ability of the Canon's screen to fully flip out and rotate 180 degrees was a big selling point for me. It was so much easier to compose a low to the ground shot with the Canon screen, and the ability for it to flip 180 degrees made my self-portraiture work so much easier. The Fuji screen only tilted, instead of flipping out and around. There is still a regular viewfinder, so once the shot is composed, I can set my focusing point through the viewfinder, having to bend only once instead of ten times, making my back so much happier.

Some additional pros - very light weight, and a locking button for the mode selector. My current Canon does not have that and I am always finding myself in Manual Mode or TV mode unintentionally.

Some cons - I did not like having the movie button grouped together with the on/off switch. More than once when it was dusky outside, I accidentally put it in movie mode, and then I wondered why when I got home and loaded my photos, I had some weird movies as well. Also, while I love that the body is lightweight, I wonder about the durability of it long term. I noticed already, this being a rental camera and used by a variety of people, that the latch for the battery compartment was starting to break. Speaking of batteries, I found the battery life to not be as long as my current five year old camera.

I was super happy with the image quality though, and noticed a nice improvement from my obsolete, five year old Canon T2i.

After renting the T6s, my decision was made, the articulating screen sold me, and in the two days that I waited for my new camera to arrive, there were a multitude of times that I wished I had that screen to use for a composition or low to the ground shot.

While you might be thinking I got the T6s, in spite of some of the cons, that would be incorrect. I bought one step up, the highest level Canon I could get with the articulating screen, the Canon 70D. The screen sold me, but I wanted a sturdier body, and a few more bells and whistles, including a dedicated AF Lock button, and a separate movie button. Also the battery life reviewed much higher than the T6s, an important factor when I am out and about all day.

There is a learning curve, as there is with anything new and different, but thus far, I am enjoying my new camera immensely.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Ladder Love and a Lesson

I have been delaying doing this week's lesson for our Flickr group - The Visual Workbench - for a couple of reasons.
  1. I was impatiently waiting for the summer people to have their last hurrah on Labor Day. Labor Day is over and they have gone home. Yay!
  2. The instructions for the lesson were a little long, and I was having a hard time remembering them every time I was out shooting. I solved that problem by printing out the instructions and carrying them with me in my coat pocket.
Here is the first part of the instructions, the part I was planning on tackling first:
  • Concentrate on one element. The simpler the scene, the better. Now make six to eight different photographs, changing only the position of the camera relative to your subject. Get higher. Get lower. Move left. Move right. Walk around it. The element might not move in a hundred years, but you have astonishing control over its shape relative to the frame.
  • Study those six to eight frames. How does the energy and balance change? How does the shape of that primary element change as your position changes?
 Here is my primary element and my simple scene...

I am in love with these orange ladders that are on the edge of the pier at our State Park.

This is shooting from the left to the right of my element, the sun, if it was out, would be behind me.

Shooting from above. It makes me a little nervous to be so close to the edge.

Changing energy and direction, shooting from right to left of my element. I would never shoot this direction normally, because the sun, if it was shining, would be shining directly into my face. It also feels more chaotic shooting this direction, even without people, compared to the peaceful scene shot from the opposite direction.

If I hadn't done this exercise, and studied this one element, I might not have noticed the thin piece of rope tied to the ladder. This additional element became my favorite part of the photographs.

It is still the surprise discoveries and the little details that delight me the most.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

August Was...

August was... filled with adventures, discoveries, learning and photography.

August was the first month this year that I started the month with the intention of being devoted entirely to photography, no writing classes in sight.

August began with the start of my 365 day self-portraiture photography project.

It began strong. I carefully plotted out the set-up everyday using the prompts from Susannah Conway's August Break.

Just as her husband suspected, she spent her afternoons sunbathing, sipping lemonade with lime and eating bonbons. Word prompt is: Citrus

Somewhere, between day three and day four, something shifted. I realized I was developing a character for my self-portraits. I started writing short stories in the third person that went with the scene I was photographing. I was creating short story vignettes, and I totally fell in love with this new creative process.

No matter how many times she stepped on the scale, the numbers remained the same. Word Prompt is: Numbers

Now things couldn't keep sailing along so easily could they? Something had to cause a problem that I would need to solve. I keep reminding myself, this is why I love photography, it is a constant challenge.

It is a sweet delight to spend Wednesday mornings with her beautiful girl prowling the farmer's market, looking for fresh from the garden bounty. No adventure is complete without a stop at the coffee stand and a linger in the park. Word prompt is: Sweet Delight

The problem: to create the vignette I envision each day, not every vignette is going to be as good as I would like, if I am in the photograph. Kind of a problem since this is suppose to be a 365 day self-portrait project.

She was no longer on the edge of seventeen, but she was not too old to live an adventurous life. Word Prompt is: Edge

I wrestled with the problem for at least a week. Many of my daily Morning Page writings were filled with ideas for a solution. I could soldier on and keep myself in the photographs and settle for mediocre on some days, which would not bring me happiness. I knew that for certain, having already done a few of those. Or...

She loves quiet mornings spent journaling and drinking tea - She is a plant killer, so her daughter has taken over their care - She loved to read - She loves to collect vintage cameras - She is not above bribing the dog so he will pose with her.  Word prompt is: Five Things

I could restart the 365 day photography project on September 1st. As much as I hated the idea of losing a month's worth of work, and some photos that I really loved, the need to keep this creative happiness that I had found, overrode the loss of that work.

So starting today, September 1, 2015, I am beginning anew my 365 photography project called Her Life in Vignettes (working title). Some photos I will be in, some I won't, but each photo will tell a story, which is what I am most excited about. I will be using the prompts from Ali Edward's 31 Things for the month of September and the first day of October.

Just the two of them. More adventures behind them than ahead of them, but that's alright, they are content to sit quietly together and watch the grass grow.  Word Prompt is: Two

While it might seem defeating to some that I wasted a whole month, for me it was a month of discovery. I never would have found this direction if I hadn't of jump into a self-portraiture 365 project with both feet.

And it is totally alright to make changes along the way, that is how you discover your truest passions and stay true to yourself.