Project: Red

Well, it’s that time again — time for my monthly photo project. I really thought I was going to be late with this one and come up with a lame excuse as to why I didn’t really have to do it and then stop the photo project series completely. But, as luck would have it, things just worked in my favor and I was able to take some wonderful pictures for this month’s project.

miniature rose

I picked the theme for the silly fact that it’s Valentine’s day.  Yeah, I wasn’t too creative with my theme selection.  When I first started thinking about this month’s project, I figured I would simply get some red flowers and go to town on them (photographically, that is).  But I decided to add a twists.  A while ago I was browsing the interwebs and came across the idea of using a standard lens as a macro lens by simply turning it around. This month’s project would be a perfect opportunity to try this interesting technique out.
side shot of miniature rose

At first, it took some time to figure out the exposure and how I was going to get the focus I wanted.  Focusing a reverse lens macro is much like focusing a LensBaby — it takes a special touch and a lot of patience.  Once I got rolling, it was a lot of fun to explore those miniature roses in macro.  I was blown away by the intricate details that are there if you just look close enough.
miniature rose bud, shot in macro

The lighting was all done naturally — I simply had the flowers in direct sunlight.  By moving myself and the flowers, I was able to get a wide range of light and shadow options.  I could have probably used some reflectors to soften the light up a bit, but for most shots, that wasn’t necessary.
reverse lens macro of miniature rose

All of these shots are hand-held.  Because the lens isn’t actually attached to the camera, you really have to hand-hold the whole deal.  Also, I think a tripod would have been too limiting.  I was constantly moving around looking for various angles and a tripod would have made it too much work.  There were definitely times where I wanted a tripod, but I made do without one.
rose petal up close -- very close

You can view the full set of images from this project on my Flickr page.

Project: Ice

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to focus more on personal projects.  I laid out 12 projects, one for each month of 2009.  The first project is themed “Ice” — I figured January was a good time to take pictures of ice.

Originally, I was going to experiment with bubbles — I had read a blog post a while back where somebody said that when it’s cold enough outside, if you blow bubbles up in the air, they will freeze instantly.  Sounded pretty cool, but when I tried it out last night, the bubbles didn’t freeze until after they landed on the ground (if they didn’t break when they hit the ground).  It probably wasn’t cold enough and I might try it again later this week when tempuratures are supposed to be downright frigid, but to my delight, when I woke up this morning, there was a super thick frost all over the place.  So, I grabbed my camera and took the dog for a walk in the park to capture some images.

My favorite images are the two of the seemingly random branches all covered in frost.  The patterns that the branches make remind me of Japanese-style watercolor paintings.

You can view these and more of my images on my Flickr page.
frozen leaf


soccer net

X marks the spot

ice dragon

Japanese-style branches

chain link

patterned fence

frosted fence

frosted tennis net

Wedding wishes

PatienceOne of my previous wedding clients had a great idea for their wedding. In their words: “We invite everyone to write a one-word wish or intent for us as a couple on the ribbon provided, so that we may be reminded of your love and your participation with us today.” The bride and groom plan on commissioning an artist to put these ribbon wishes into a work of art that they can display in their home.

I absolutely love this idea and was happy to be able to capture some images of these ribbons, both before and after the ceremony. In fact, the ribbons turned out to make a great backdrop for photographing the wedding rings, as you can see if you click on the image, or check out my Flickr photoset.

You can't take pictures without a camera

Winter trees
Lately I have been telling myself that I need to take more pictures. I’ve been doing my weddings and taking pictures of the kids, but I haven’t done any personal work in a while. The first thing that I needed to start doing was actually bringing my camera with me when I go out (‘cuz you can’t take pictures without a camera).

Well, it just happens that the first day I decide to bring my camera with me, my drive to work presented me with an excellent photo op. The weather was just right for creating large amounts of frost on the trees and there was a nice heavy fog in the air.  Even though I was already running a little late, I stopped the car and spent five minutes taking pictures. I’m so happy that I did, because I’m really enjoying the handful of images that I took.

How’s that for synchronicity?

Seeking balance

I can’t sit still. My to-do list is enormous. I’ve got places to go and things to do. I’ve got a new project that needs to get done. I’ve got a wedding to shoot. I’ve got to feed the dog and brush my teeth. I’ve got to wear matching socks. I’ve got to focus. I’ve got to get out of here.

In all of the chaos that is my life, there is a balance to be found. Some things have to be done, but others are just a waste of time.  There are two things that truly make me happy in life. 1) spending uninterrupted time with my family, and 2) building/creating stuff. Sure, there are a lot of other things that make me happy, but if I had to whittle it down to two, these are it.

If I ever get into a rut and feel out of whack, all I need to do is spend time doing one of those two things and I start feeling normal again. I have a great family (wife, child, and dog — with another child on the way). I work a lot. I have hobbies and projects. I like to run and stay in shape. I like to be active. I like to move. I like to create and learn. I like kung fu movies.

Can I keep track of it all and keep my sanity? Only time will tell, but one thing that I’m sure of is that I need to find a balance between what is truly important (family, creativity) and what is merely trivial.

My better half

October was one of the busiest months that I’ve had in years. I managed to cover 3 hotels in 3 different states, shoot 2 weddings, do an all-day children’s photo shoot, photograph a newborn baby, and attend a three day conference in Boston. And on top of that I got to see Mat Kearney in concert, which was a much needed night out with my wife.

Speaking of my wife, I couldn’t have possibly done all of this without her help. Not only does she watch our son full time (which is definitely a full time job), but she watches another child 3 days a week. Not only that, but she always manages to have the house in perfect order, food ready for supper, and clean socks and underwear in my dresser.

Earlier this week, we finally got our computer back from the repair shop (that’s another story), and Vicki has already managed to singlehandedly go through all the children’s pictures and an entire wedding. Holy cow, can this woman do any more?

Needless to say, I’m more than appreciative for what my wife contributes. Thank you Vicki, you’re the best wife a man could ask for.

The spirit and the letter of art

“The spirit and the letter” is a phrase often used to talk about laws and company policies. What is written is supposed to give not just black and white rules for which to follow, but also outline a methodology, or lifestyle which is implicit in the text. It’s like looking at the 10 commandments and saying, “These are ten rules that we must live by [the letter], but really you should just be good to people [the spirit].”

While laws and policies put more of the emphasis on the letter, art puts more of the emphasis on the spirit. Art is all about the expression and communication of ideas and thoughts in a free-flowing kind of way. Art cannot, and should not be measured or tied down, and art is far from black and white in terms of interpretation.

Art is the embodiment of the spirit, but it is communicated through a means of tangible visual elements, which once commited to their medium, become the letter.

Which brings me to why I’m actually writing this down. It’s easy to copy the lines and shapes of a masterpiece (most art students are told to learn by doing so), but not easy at all to capture the spirit of a masterpiece. The other day, I came across an attempt by the city of Beloit Wisconsin to replicate Seurat’s masterpiece “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” I have to say that they did a very impressive job of getting the visual elements in place, even the dog in the foreground. But to me, this replication fails to take into account the spirit of the work. Seurat was taking aim at proving a point about his technique (pointillism) while capturing on am impressive scale (81 x 120 in) the busy life of modern day Parisians (which was a popular theme for paintings at the time). This was not an easy feat for Seurat as it took him nearly two years to complete the painting.

Maybe I’m a little disappointed because this is one of my favorite paintings and I hold my own interpretation of the painting. Maybe I’m a little disappointed because the work displayed is not a final version and will be modified to better capture Seurat’s pointillism.

Either way, this is just my opinion and you can’t take away the fact that they did a really good job of copying the letter of Seurat’s masterpiece.

Horse blinders

The other day I read something (I can’t remember where) that made me think. With all of the sources for information out there, it is becoming increasingly easy (and common) for people to target the specific information that they want to receive and to only pay attention to that topic (or set of topics). For example, people are starting to get more of their information from the internet, blogs and podcasts as opposed to “mainstream” news sources such as TV, radio and newspapers.

What does this mean? Well, for one, it means that if you are interested in a topic, then you can target that topic and receive an enormous amount of information on that topic delivered right to you as it becomes available. This is pretty darned cool and I have to admit that I’m one of those people who subscribes to podcasts and RSS feeds of sites that I find interesting.

But there is also a down-side to this. By focusing on a specific topic (or small set of topics), you may be limiting the breadth of ideas that you are exposed to.

Newspapers, radio and TV all tend to be very broad in the topics and stories that they cover. This makes sense because they have a wide audience that they need to please. If you look past the headline news and into the heart of the newspaper/news show, you’ll be presented with wide ranging stories and topics that you might not have searched for while browsing the internet, but find interesting nonetheless. These hidden gems may offer some insight into a new idea, or give you inspiration to try something new.

Surprisingly, with all of the information that is available to us today, it is easier now than ever to put your horse blinders on and only see one topic in front of you — one point of view. I realized that to some extent that this was happening to me and after becoming aware of it, I was a little bit shocked. What I thought of as a great tool for targeting the information that I am interested in was in fact limiting the information that I was receiving.

It’s worth being aware of this because I can only see this trend becoming more and more common. Beware of what you are searching for, because you might find it — and in turn be limiting what you are seeing.