Resolution 04

Destruction. Debris. Decaying structures. I’ve always enjoyed seeing photos of abandoned hospitals and other buildings. There’s just something intriguing about seeing a place that was once a prime example of human civilization look as though our species has been evacuated from the planet.

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While I didn’t find anything quite that drastic, the past few weeks I had noticed an old distribution center that was in the process of being demolished. I knew before long there wouldn’t be much left, so I made a point to find time to go shoot. The weather had been nice, so I was hoping for an easier time than the last few outings. Of course we had freezing rain and 40º temps the day I went for a visit. At least it made for some interesting frosted windows and icy fences.

dangersignThe main thing I wanted to get a look at was the security gate station. Anything with danger and warning signs is bound to be good to photograph. Even though the booth and the items inside it wouldn’t normally be in motion, it’s strange how still everything seems when there’s no one around, and the area has been left to rot.

This is the first time I had the camera on full manual, typically I’d been shooting in aperture priority mode. I felt I had enough time and my fingers weren’t too cold that I could take the time to adjust everything myself. Despite the sun not being out, there was plenty of light to keep the ISO down and use a fast shutter speed to compensate for my less-than-still arms and balance.

icedfenceBecause of the solid gray sky, I had some difficulty processing the images. If I wanted to see any hint of the clouds, the rest of the image was too dark. Brighten up the whole scene and the sky was blown out and all white. I used the graduated filter and adjustment brush in Lightroom to help compensate for this. While it helped a lot, I’m not convinced I wouldn’t have been better served opening the images in Photoshop, being able to more carefully select just the sky to make adjustments.

Overall, I think this was the most fun I’ve had with this project yet. I had an interesting subject and area to capture, the time, and less frigid climate to be able to really focus on what I wanted to do. That said, I’m really looking forward to all the changes coming this spring and the opportunities they will bring.

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More photos from this are on my flickr site.

Resolution 03

Another heavy snow means another chance to photograph things frozen, covered in white blankets of snow. I had seen railroad tracks in the park I was at before and wanted to try capturing them. While I wasn’t too excited by what I ended up with, I was much more inspired by the bright red railroad crossing yield sign.

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I wish I had framed the sign more to the left, as the angle of the power lines and slight tilt of the sign move my eyes to the right side – which is then the edge of the image. I tried finding something interesting with the shadow, but it was just too cold to keep trying. This park also has a creepy old building that’s fenced in, too. I’ll have to come back to here on a warmer day. I need to learn to not go out and take pictures when it’s only 9º.

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A week or so later, after yet another snow, I decided to find another bright color like the red yield sign. I was trying to find something that could really stand out and use the snow as a solid colored background. I was headed down a country road on the edge of town and all I could find was dull browns from lifeless plants and hibernating trees. I finally gave up and pulled onto a street to turn around when I spotted it – a bright red fire hydrant!

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After looking through my shots of this I’ve decided that the background of your image is just as important as the foreground. Some angles there was muddy snow or a housing development in the background. They just weren’t as fun as the shots that were mostly neon red on white. I also noticed that this hydrant had not been shoveled out yet, and wondered if the people at the business nearby were worried I was taking pictures to report them.

IMG_1536.JPGI really like the look of a solid background, and will probably try to achieve that with more photos in the future. I also really liked the bright colors. When I was editing them I also liked a slightly desaturated look, too. However, much like turning the bass and treble up on a stereo, it’s hard not to bring those colors out!

As always, all of these photos and more are up on Flickr.

Resolution 02

Since my first post, Resolution 01, I’ve been on two more photo excursions. I feel like each time I’m starting to get a better handle on how to set the camera and remembering what buttons and dials are designated for. One problem I’ve noticed is I don’t have a very clear idea of what I’m trying to create as I’m taking these pictures. I find something that might look cool and try to get an interesting view of it – but don’t really have an idea of what I want out of it.

I’ve been learning a lot from looking at the images on the computer and editing them. Through cropping, often times I find a small part of the image makes a better picture than the whole. That means I’m throwing away much of my available resolution and detail. So focusing more on an idea or concept is something I’m going to try and keep in mind when shooting in the future.

The Log

The first set is from the end of January before we had the big snow. I often drive along Ellis road on my lunch breaks and had seen someone taking pictures of this log a few days earlier. I figured I might as well make that my next stop. It wasn’t until I started getting closeups of the log that I found my pictures getting interesting. As I mentioned above, I ended up cropping these quite a bit.

This day, my focus was on trying to get the depth of field low enough to blur the background. Once I looked at them on a big screen, the details in the wood were quite interesting and I wish I had paid a bit more attention to that. It was very muddy and cold out, so I called it quits pretty quickly this day.

The second set is from yesterday, after the weekend of heavy snow. I went to a small park down by the Cedar river, across from the Ellis boat harbor. Surprisingly, the parking lot and roads were well-plowed already. There was a road at the end of the park that I hadn’t remembered being there, so naturally I went down it. Turns out it was a utility access road, and it ran along the river for quite a ways. It was quite enjoyable to drive around on the twists and turns in the road, especially knowing there would be no traffic. Eventually I stopped horsing around and got out to take some pictures (including some of my Saab in it’s natural habitat).

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It was nice to have a bright, sunny day so I could use a fast shutter speed and have decent exposure. I got to play around with the crystal-like ice on trees and the sunlight beaming through branches. I had a hard time seeing the LCD on the camera, though, because it was so bright out. Later on I realized I could have just looked through the viewfinder (seems obvious, right?). So, that’s another thing to add to my list of what I’ve learned from doing this project.

These and a few others are up on my Flickr site.

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Resolution 01

No, this is not really a post about a resolution for the new year. “Resolution” is in reference to image resolution, and an ongoing learning project I have started for myself. “01” refers to this being the first installment of it.

Several months ago, I bought a Panasonic Lumix G6 camera. It’s a micro four-thirds format interchangeable lens system – basically a DSLR without the mirror mechanism. This makes for a much lighter, smaller camera body and lenses – among other things beneficial to me. A friend had turned me towards the m43 format, and I’m glad he did. Because the camera was small and felt unobtrusive, I felt comfortable taking it with me around the hospital when my son, Harvey, was born. I’m glad I have those pictures.

drdadBefore Harvey was born, I hadn’t gotten completely comfortable with the camera yet, and I still don’t completely understand the science of photography. Luckily, there is a pretty good (and quick to turn on) fully automatic setting on the camera. I used this most of the time at the hospital.  It was even easy enough to be able to pass off the camera to someone else. For the most part, given the conditions, the pictures turned out great. However, there were quite a few where the focus wasn’t on what was wanted, and a lot of grainy, blurry images from the low light in the room.

More or less, I understand the basic concepts of how to use the aperture, shutter speeds, and ISO settings. It takes me a bit too long to remember which button does what when the dial is set on what mode, and how to use the combination of things to achieve the image I want. I read up on these things and start to get a better understanding of them, however, it’s just real-world experience that does the most help.

That’s why I’ve started a bit of my own “challenge.” Because I didn’t like making a photo collection called “Practice,” I’ve decided to refer to this project as “Resolution.” The goals I am setting out to achieve are:

  • learn all of the features of my camera.
  • get comfortable with the controls and settings.
  • understand better how to control depth of field.
  • work on composition.
  • find interesting points of view.

My plan is to take my camera out with me once every week or so and find someplace to take some pictures. I’ve already done this a couple of times on my lunch breaks. I’ve found it can be kind of hard to find something interesting to take pictures of by just picking a random spot in a park. Part of the challenge, though, is to find an interesting way to look at everyday things.

One afternoon I was parked on the street along a park and planned to go walk along a creek. The snow was deeper than I anticipated, so I ended up just looking around on the side of the road. It was all pretty boring. About the only thing I saw that could be interesting was the full bright sun, high up in the sky without a cloud to be seen. So I took some pictures of the sun peaking around the side of a telephone pole. Still, not very interesting. It did give me a chance to experiment with the exposure, though.

Street ShadowI finally realized, the interesting part wasn’t the sun or the pole, but rather the shadow created by them both. I got down low and actually had the camera on the ground. I tried a few different things, and eventually packed up feeling underwhelmed.

Once I got back to my computer, and after a bit of cropping, I ended up with an image I actually enjoy. Which made me realize I need to focus more on my framing and composition. That’s all it took to make a relatively boring scene into something interesting.

As I continue with this project, I’ll be posting my results to my flickr account as well as writing updates here – hopefully with what I’ve learned!