Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Return to the Great Reify and Redact Project

Having completed the PopPhoto 2007 Shootout, it is time to complete the Reify and Redact Project. Here are two more pictures for my portfolio.

On my birthday a few years ago, these pelicans put on a great show and I was in the right place with the right equipment. The evening sun was low and the marsh grass was glowing. This was a case of “F8 and be there” and I was there. My wife calls this picture “Happy Birthday”.

Not so happy, but quite beautiful in its own way, this pier, damaged by Hurrican Katrina, was glowing in the early morning light. I bracketed several exposures and was rewarded with a very nice photo. About a year later, I realized that those bracketed exposures could be combined to make a High Dynamic Range image. I like the HDR version even more than the original.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

PopPhoto Shootout 2007: Summary and Links

I enjoyed participating in PopPhoto’s 2007 Shootout and learned a lot in the process. Here are the links to my blog entries for the various phases of the contest.

PopPhoto Winner (not me!)
The contest and qualifying
1st assignment: your first name
2nd assignment: portait including rock, paper, scissors
3rd assignment: documentary (my documentary)

In PopPhoto’s forums, I made recommendations for next year’s contest, including

- organize results of assignments alphabetically by photographer
- give a little more advance notice for documentary assignments
- require a short descriptive paragraph of the documentary
- publish the winning documentary
- allow batch uploading of images
- keep images together in the gallery.

Wait ‘til next year!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Buck’s Workshop

My parents had a small arts and crafts store. My dad enjoyed working with wood and made many small items for their business. He loved fine woodworking and became quite good at making toys, clocks, frames, furniture, wall hangings and various gadgets – anything that struck his fancy. All were made in his workshop.

The big worktable in the center of the shop was also the center of his workflow. Daddy made his worktable just the way he wanted. It is massive. You can pound and pull and beat on it. It has recessed areas on top, drawers all around and storage underneath.

Many years ago, Daddy made a
wooden swing. Even though well made and of good materials, eventually the ravages of time overwhelmed it. Not wanting to completely discard those memories, I salvaged pieces to be frames for pictures.

Daddy’s workshop, although small, was well equipped. He strongly believed in using the right tool for the job and that including buying or making special tools. His tools included many different types of saws, drills, planers, sanders, routers, a lathe, etc. Theoretically, because he showed me how, I know how to use them all.

Three cradles were made with love and anticipation in that workshop. Now holding Daddy’s great-grandchildren, those cradles are a treasured legacy. It doesn’t seem that long ago that he and I set up his workshop for a photo shoot featuring his violin. This time, I did it all myself.

PopPhoto Shootout 2007: Third Assignment

All along, I had assumed that one of the PopPhoto 2007 Shootout assignments would be a photojournalistic documentary. The only questions in my mind were the topic and number of photos. Depending on my location when the assignment was posted, I had several options. If on the Mississippi coast, my intention was more photos for a documentary on Hurricane Katrina damage and recovery – a project that I’m working on anyway.

As things turned out, the third assignment was a “creative documentary” and I was on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; however, the topic of the documentary was to “capture a day in the life of any job (though not an office job)”. There was a bonus assignment as well: photograph a unicorn.

I immediately dismissed the unicorn assignment as a joke which, of course, turned out to be a mistake. I should have just gone along with the joke.

I had a problem with this documentary assignment. For one thing, not only do I have an office job but virtually all my family and friends have “office” jobs. Also, I was away from home and reluctant to impose on someone’s day. Although my mother and sister had a few ideas, none of them appealed to me – and the clock was ticking.

Determined to complete the third assignment and finish the contest, I finally came up with an idea for my documentary. Granted, it was a bit of a stretch, but first we had to clean up my dad’s workshop.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

PopPhoto Shootout 2007: Second Assignment

The second assignment for the PopPhoto 2007 Shootout was a portrait. I’d guessed, almost assumed, that portraiture would be part of the contest so I was ready except that my model was in Florida. But wait, there was more! Rock, scissors, paper? The assignment required rock, scissors and paper to be included as elements of the portrait.

I had expected one of the assignments to be a bit odd but photographing my name (the first assignment) should have covered it. Although tempted, I decided to avoid the obvious “rock, paper, scissors” game and simply include those objects in the portrait.

The need for “scissors” created the concept for the first portrait. My Swiss Army Knife has scissors and enjoys being photographed. Paper? How about having the knife read the newspaper I had just finished? Rocks? Put the rocks in the background. Model? Most likely, my knife would not qualify for both scissors and model. I needed someone who was readily available, would sign a model release, work for free and be patient with me. Since my Canon G3 has a flip around screen and remote, I selected, well, myself.

The rock, paper, scissors self-portrait was much more difficult than I thought. For one thing, even in the morning, a mid-July day in south Mississippi is hot. Even worse, the LCD display was just barely readable in the brightness. Then, the remote didn’t seem to work very well so the self timer had to be used instead. This meant constantly moving between camera and setting. Fortunately, the auto-bracketing feature allowed three shots per move but that was only a small consolation. This was the best shot but most people don’t “get it”. Anyway, I think it is hilarious – the silly little knife can’t even read!

With a light-hearted photo on the memory card, the next photo was to be a bit more serious. For this scene, I set up three small wireless flashes. The main light was at about 45 degrees to the desk; the second light was at my back; the third light was snooted and aimed at the rock, paper and scissors. All in all, a realistic location portrait even if it is not a particularly exciting one. Besides, my mother likes it.

With two images selected, processed and uploaded to PopPhoto, I put the batteries in the chargers and myself to bed a bit early for an extended recharge.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

PopPhoto Shootout 2007: First Assignment

(My Reify and Redact project is actually finished but I should document my efforts in the PopPhoto contest in a timely manner.)

After qualifying by submitting four images, the next phase of the contest was a series of three “assignments” to be posted daily on the PopPhoto website beginning July 16. Looking a bit more closely at the calendar, I discovered a scheduling conflict. I was to be in north Alabama for a family reunion on the 15th and my wife, children, grandchild and a handful of nieces and nephews – virtually all my consultants, assistants and models – were to be in Florida for the entire week. Plus, my wife claimed first dibs on our Canon 20D digital SLR. PopPhoto, I have a problem.

Undeterred, I changed my goal. Instead of winning the contest and receiving the title of “Best Photographer on the Planet”, my goal (perhaps slightly more realistic) would be to finish the final assignments and somehow be mentioned or listed among the finalists. I packed my trusty Canon G3, drove to Mississippi, picked up my mother and sister and then drove to north Alabama.

After the family reunion, we began our return. I awoke Monday morning, and logged into PopPhoto’s site. The first assignment was a picture of your first name. What kind of photo assignment was that? Naturally, the day before, we had driven on “Gordon Street”-- now about a three hour round trip away in the wrong direction. We loaded into my car and drove to south Mississippi. All along the way we planned my photo shoot of “Gordon”.

By the time we reached my mother’s house, the first shots were planned. In fact, there were four shots planned even though only three were needed: 3D stencils, cutouts in the birdbath, inked stamps and a sunset photo “signed” in the sand.

We quickly found the large letters that my Dad had cast in plaster but, of course, there was only one “O”. Spreading a blanket on the workbench, I spaced the letters for “GORD N” and “G RDON” and set up a snooted flash to light it from one end. A few trial shots with the G3, a few adjustments, two shots to be combined later in Photoshop and it was done. I liked it.

My sister cut out “GORDON” in Styrofoam – making both “O”s – and placed them in the birdbath. The floating letters were completely unmanageable until I jammed them all together. The picture was mediocre; it looked like homemade letters in a dirty birdbath. I had my mother hold a flash very close to the water but just out of view. The letters became nicely overexposed and the bottom of the birdbath glowed with a strange pattern. OK, I’ll keep it – just in case.

Off to the beach for the sunset. The idea was to get a beautiful sunset photo that was “signed” in the sand. I wrote my name in the sand and took a few trial shots. Immediately I could see that this would be difficult. The sunset was unremarkable (note to self: Don’t count on a spectacular sunset.) and my name just didn’t show up very well. I tried various angles, flashes, flashlight, etc. It just didn’t work (that time, but I still like the idea).

Back at the house, my sister had stamped “GORDON” on a piece of poster paper and placed the stamps above the name. I scattered the rest of the stamps around and set up my camera. Instead of flash, I grabbed a flashlight and lit the tabletop scene from one side. We tried several variations including one with a bit of red light from my trusty Swiss Army Knife. Later, using Photoshop, I combined two of these to get the final image. This is the “GORDON” that I like the best.

Images selected, processed in Photoshop, downloaded to PopPhoto, bath and in bed at 2am. Seven hours until the next assignment.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Back to Reify and Redact: Still More Selections

After a short deviation to write about my efforts in PopPhoto’s 2007 Shootout, I’ve returned to the Reify and Redact Project. Here are my latest selections.

The honors for most frequent representation in my selected best efforts go to my niece. This B/W shot was made with that same Yashica 12 TLR when the camera was not quite so old. The color shot, an Ektrachrome slide, was made with the Konica T2 just a year or so later and in about the same location on the beach.

The great thing about the Yashica 12 was the large (as compared to 35mm) negative. I could get enlargements from those negatives without having too many dust spots. The difficulty in
using the Yashica was composition and focusing. The ground glass viewer showed a reversed image that gave me a really tough time. For this picture, I was almost certainly using the "sports finder" instead of the screen.

In comparison to the Yashica, using the Konica T2 was easy until the enlarging process in the darkroom. My preferences quickly became the Konica for color slides and the Yashica for B/W.

Friday, August 3, 2007

PopPhoto Shootout 2007

OK, so I didn’t win, place or show. I didn’t even make the finals in the 2007 Shootout contest sponsored by Popular Photography and Imaging magazine. But I did finish the assignments and had a good time doing it. More importantly I learned a lot and am a better photographer for having participated.

But I sure wish that even one of my shots would have been published. Hmmm, I have this blog and …

This year was the third year for PopPhoto to sponsor their great shootout. Their procedure for the first two years was to select three finalists, bring those photographers to New York and give them three days of tough photographic assignments. This year, the entire contest was conducted over the Internet.

The first phase was to register and submit four photographs: a landscape, an action photo, a portrait and a product photo. I sorted through some of my favorites and quickly entered all four.

Naturally, I first selected one of my favorites, Wallace, which has already been posted here and will be included in my Reify and Redact project as well. The other selections were

It seemed to me that between two and three thousand photographers registered but some entered only one or two photographs. Some entered more than four. At the end of this first phase of the contest, there were nearly seven hundred fully qualified entrants and I was hanging in there.

Next, the assignments ...