Resolution 07

On my way out of work on a rainy, overcast day, the color of the dumpster caught my eye. It’s a burnt red color and just really stood out. The surroundings weren’t anything I wanted in my pictures, nor did I really want all my co-workers wondering why I was taking pictures of the dumpster.

I set out looking for something with a similar color, and ended up finding it at a little park by the river I had been at during the winter. I found some sort of utility box that had a nice rusty orange color. The rain had given it a nice shiny reflective top. I found a few angles that I liked and then moved on.

I didn’t find much else I wanted to photograph. There were some geese standing in a row along the edge of the river, but I didn’t have my telephoto lens with me and I couldn’t get close enough without scaring them away.

But then there is always the car.

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P1050558aSaabs always catch my eye, and I’ve always thought the color of mine looks particularly good on dreary days – especially covered in beads of rain. Sometime I will need to do a night photoshoot with it under street or parking lot lights. That’s another time when I feel like the Ice Blue color really comes alive. (These photos are sensationalized a bit – the blue color isn’t quite so saturated in real life).

See the full set and more from the past on flickr.

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.

My Saab Story

I got bit by the bug, and it wasn’t a beetle, it was Saab.

I remember as a kid I would occasionally see these weird cars that had windshields curved around the sides of the car and a long sloped tail end. They looked both sleek and boxy at the same time, and I kind of thought they were ugly – but I liked them.

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I didn’t think too much about Saab until 2008 when the whole financial crisis happened and automotive companies were close to going belly up. When GM announced they were going to wind down Saab, my interest picked up. I realized I may never have the opportunity to own a Saab. I started reading about the history and culture of the company. Before long, I was hooked!

saab-sahrIt became very clear that Saab was all about thinking differently. They found creative ways to build safe, comfortable, and practical cars that were still fun to drive. Perhaps the most famous example is brining turbocharging to mass production – along with a myriad of other performance and safety features (like those weird headrests).

I found the values of the people making Saabs were very much like my own. I wanted a car to be safe without sacrificing enjoyment. I wanted a car to be practical, both in fuel efficiency and the ability to move things and people, without being a big boring box. I wanted something sporty and fun while being able to drive safely year round. I wanted something just a little bit different. Saab hit the perfect balance between all of these things.

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Plus, the more I looked at them, the more perfectly sculpted they seemed. While I used to find the old 900’s to be a bit weird, I now think they’re one of the most beautiful car designs ever. Even as newer models got farther away from that form, there is always something simple and elegant about a Saab. They look strong and sporty, but understated and never flashy. Their lines an meaningful, there are no fake bulges or curves. The design is clean, purposeful, and beautiful – very Scandinavian.

saabkeyNow that I have owned my 2007 9-3ss for a few years, I have truly come to appreciate many of the features often described as ‘quirky’. The ignition between the front seats makes sense from a mechanical point of view, but also helps prevent troubles by not having keys hanging on the ignition switch (hello, GM) and the annoying noise of keys hitting the dash. In addition to that, it helps prevent knee injury in an accident.

Perhaps my favorite feature is the night panel. Most cars let you dim the lights on the dash for better visibility at night, but Saab went one step further. Taking a cue from their aeronautical past, pressing the night panel button will turn off all non-essential lights. The radio display, info display and all gauges except for the speedometer are turned off. The speedometer is even only lit up to 90mph (but the rest of it comes on if you happen to go over). This may not seem like a lot, but if you dim the lights and turn on the night panel, you really do get a clear focused look out the windshield. I really miss having this when I drive anything else at night. Don’t worry though, if I run low on gas or the car detects something is wrong, the warning lights still come on.

Saab has always been a bit of an underdog, and probably somewhat misunderstood (especially under GM’s ownership). Although they are the little engine that could, that engine has been running on fumes for the last few years. After being partially shut down by GM, then sold to a tiny ultra-luxury sports car maker, being denied funding, sold to the (mostly) Chineese, and now in bankruptcy – the near-term isn’t very bright. Even though it appears as though an Indian company wants to revive Saab, possibly much like Tata with Jaguar/Land Rover, for now I’m just going to enjoy my Saab as much as I can. I have developed a deep passion for the cars, the brand and it’s community of devoted fans. And as I said earlier, I’ve been bitten by the bug, even though I love my car, it has made me really want to experience other models. Viggen or TurboX anyone?

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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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