Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Lost in the crowd, Siena, Italy

This is the second image I plan on submitting to the TPS MOS for 2006. This image was taken in Siena, Italy during a week long holiday to Tuscany. I'd been walking around the city of Siena taking fairly typical tourist shots. We'd been challenged to take some images from the perspective of children. The one thing I realised about this was the difference in eye level - particularly on a narrow crowded street. I crouched down in a doorway and was amazed at the number of legs I saw. Everything suddenly felt very claustrophobic and threatening. I started trying to take pictures that captured some of that emotion. Occasionally I'd see breaks in the sea of adult legs, catch a glimpse of another child in the distance - someone on the same scale as me. This image best expressed those feelings for me - the cut off adults that exist up there in a different world. The young girl appearing through the gap in the legs, her hand attaching her to some unknown adult. The other child's foot breaking into the foreground frame adds to that feeling I think - the only identifiable things in the scene are children or belong to children - yet it is clear that adults are all around. The processing makes this very dark. I've burned down a lot of the legs and the black and white treatment I've used further emphasises the brooding and enclosing feeling, but with the gap leading out to the girl. I find the very off centered crop of the girl's head, right at the very edge of the frame works because she is looking back into the frame. Her downward gaze brings your eyes back into the picture, holding my attention. This, coupled with the fact that she is the brightest part of the scene and the area of highest contrast keeps the attention squarely where I wanted it - with her.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Century Plant, Big Bend, Texas

This is the first image I'm entering in the TPS member's only show for 2006. It is an agave cactus, shot in Big Bend National Park, far out in West Texas. I'd spent the week out there at a workshop and we were shooting towards the Window in the Chisos Mountain Basin. I'd set up on another cactus and waited as the light changed. Plenty of planning and careful composition went into that first picture. I adjusted, fretted and played with a reflector to fill in the darker shadows on the cactus. Tweaked bits of dirt out of the way. It was all set up. The light got right, I shot it. Then what ? Well, I shot it again, just stood there. Moved a bit, tweaked a setting, shot it again. Then I realised - if this was all I'd shoot, that was the best shot I'd take all day. I had to start moving. The light was going - fast. I'd scouted out this one option and I'd shot it - so what next ? Well, frantic action, running around the desert trying to find the next shot. Set it up - quickly! Shoot it, move on - and so on. I eventually (after running around and shooting probably another 20 different compositions) ended up in front of this agave cactus. It was a subtly different colour to all the others - a deeper blue and the falling light made it almost glow. The Chisos mountains by that point were really starting to catch the last rays of the sun, glowing a bright, deep red. Perfect! The sky had been clear, blue and photographically boring all week - but I had it in most of the other compositions. I'd been trying to get a rhythmic relationship between the mountain ranges and the shapes around the tops of the cactus. Playing off each other, trying to create movement in the image. For this one, I got in tighter, cropped the distinctive tops off of the mountain ranges and shot the image above. There's still space around the sides to move through the image and the lighter patch of rocks above the cactus acts like a path through to the background. The warmer colours there tend to move me in that direction too. It turned out to be one of my favourite images from the whole trip - summing up how I see much of far West Texas, but not really being tied to any particular area - the mountains become generic, colour contrast to the cactus. The colours of the cactus cause it to pop and really jump out of the page, helped along by the depth of field I chose. Not a whole lot of post processing to this - bit of local contrast enhancement to help the cactus pop a bit more, some dodging & burning and I removed a few rocks in the scrub grass around the cactus to keep the flow moving around the cactus in the grass.

TexasPhoto Member's Only Show

I plan on entering the member's only show, for the Texas Photographic Society this year. I submitted images last year as well, but wasn't fortunate enough to get through the jury selection process for the show. Fingers crossed for this year. I get to submit 5 images for consideration and I'm going to post each of them to this site, along with some discussion on how they were made and what I like about them.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


As I mentioned, I've started this project to take pictures of all of our friends in Austin. (So if you fall in this category - feel free to offer up your support and time to help me out with this!) I'm trying to take simple, natural light portraits. Quick and easy, nothing too elaborate, to have a collection of great pictures of our friends. Some day Amanda & I might move on from Austin and I hope this would be a great memento of our time here and the people we shared it with. The other part of this project is to get me over my shyness and fear of taking pictures of people. Getting up close and personal with the camera is intimidating for me, yet I always love the results and the buzz I get from taking a really satisfying picture. So I'm trying to push through this aversion to taking portraits. Slowly getting there! Kate was kind enough to be the first person after Amanda in on this project. We spent a fun Saturday afternoon catching up on her various vacations and taking a few pictures around her house. Kate's also a photographer so has some idea about the fears and barriers I'm trying to work through, so that helped me out a lot. She also came up with good ideas for locations in her house.


Amanda was the first portrait I did. A lazy afternoon, some light streaming in the window. This final shot was taken standing in our bathroom, with Amanda coming out of the closet! There's a big window with frosted glass behind me that provides a warm, even light, perfect for this sort of portrait. The fall off behind the door frame helps to have Amanda pop out of the page. The clothes hanging on the racks behind help to give a bit of texture and context too!
I always find posing a person difficult - I think mostly though I just have to get used to talking and shooting more. Make people feel confident in what I'm doing, so that they start to believe that they are in good hands and won't be made to look stupid. Maybe I can fake that feeling until it starts to be true!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Where did the year go ?

I think I've really picked my camera up twice this year. Both of those times were on trips to Australia. Other than that, somewhere along the line, I lost the will to shoot. Well, I lost the will to shoot the same subjects that I'd shot for the previous 3 years. The fun went away. Or I got busy.

Australia was a blast - Paul & Julie's wedding went fast then Tasmania was great. Back to Austin in February then we moved house straight after that. Some time around then the creative block dropped down on me. Fear of where I might be going. Weight of the previous shoots in Big Bend & Italy that I hadn't processed. Boredom with the images. Fear of moving towards the portraiture that I wanted to get in to but was afraid to talk to people about. So my camera languished. I lost weight, worked, got ready to start ironman training. Concentrated on work. Left my camera languishing. Then back to Australia for Kate's wedding. Lots of people, willing to have their pictures taken. Some of my best portraits, finding and seeing available light. Plenty of really rewarding, fun images. Somehow that resparked the fun. Made me want to get back in touch with my camera. Stop it languishing in the cupboard. The shot above was the highlight of the wedding for me. Dianne, Kate, Tim & Bob. Right at the last moment of the wedding. Running to get in the right place, composition falling in place in front of me. Right place, right time, right light, right people. Just right.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Back in some sort of groove

It's been a while since I've posted anything. Almost as long since I've taken a picture. I'm working on that though. More about that in the next few blog entries. I'm starting working on a new portrait project. Hopefully dragging everyone I know in Austin into it. I felt it was only fair to start with me.