Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Simple Photography - Chapter 1 - Keep it SIMPLE

Today I start a series of posts that I call “Simple Photography”. My goal, over the course of the upcoming chapters, is to provide you with some golden nuggets that will increase your likelihood of capturing the shot you want.

There are so many things to discuss, as art can take on an infinite number of forms, and to simply say, “take your pictures like this” really doesn’t work. Why, because setting, subjects, processing, equipment and purpose can be unique to each picture. Therefore, in this first segment rather than discuss the technical aspects of photography or overwhelm you with a course on optics, I think it’s more important to discuss the basics of a photo opportunity. Yes, that’s right, the photo opportunity, not the photo itself. The reason to focus on the opportunity and not the photo is that like with most processes, shooting a photo is 80% preparation and 20% action.

So let’s begin by planting a seed. I believe that with every photo opportunity there are 6 key factors to consider. They are as follows:

Subject: Is your subject easy to portray or are their challenges? (bodily features, obstruction, noise).
I found this fellow at a sea park in Hawaii. He was was a great subject who didn't mind posing for this shot. The challenge was handling the surrounding glare and finding the right moment where the other sea lions in the pen wouldn't distract from the picture. This photo was shot with an old Sony Mavica, one of the original digital cameras which took pictures at less that 1 megapixal.

Intent: What is the intent or desired message that you want your photo to express? (joy, sadness,
solitude, violence, power, etc.).

Yeah that me throwing a punch at Marty McSorley (rememeber him from the NHL). Here I'm trying to portray that I'm in control and ready to give Marty a knuckle sandwich. Luckily he wasn't buying it!

Motion: Is motion a feature of the photo or is it a hindrance; Is it passive or active?

In this shot expression of motion was important. Use of angles help capture the motion as the subject (our son Caleb) falls off the wake. Arm position and facial expression are also factors that illustrate the stresses that Caleb is under.

Post-Processing: If the photo is not ideal, what can you do in post processing to make it so or if the photo is good, can you make it even better.

Use of cropping cut out the unsightly buildings that were in the foreground. Adding a sepia tone adds to the mystery of the picture.
Lighting: Is the lighting at the desired level and contrast? Does the existing light cause undesirable glare, shadows or subject features (baggy eyes, double chins, discoloration).
Shooting sea life can cause extreme challenges due to subdued lighting and bending. If you are shooting through glass you must also be careful when using a flash as you don't want the reflection of the flash to ruin your shot.

Environment: Is this a controlled shot, a candid or just happenstance? Do you need to think ahead or do you have the luxury of taking your time and concentrating on the fine details of your photo?
Taking shots of our Wheaton Terrier, Teagan is never easy as she is a very active dog. Here as she blasts through the deep snow, I only had seconds to react. Luckily I knew this would be the case before I attempted the shot.

Okay, it’s time for your first pop-quiz. Can you guess what I call this approach to taking pictures? If you guessed SIMPLE, you may not be smarter than a 5th grader, but you are on the road to taking better photos.

So let’s just keep it SIMPLE for this chapter and send you off with a little homework. Until the next chapter, each time you get ready to take a picture, ask yourself if your photo opportunity is SIMPLE.

Next time we’ll discuss how the 6 components of the SIMPLE approach interrelate, then we’ll start putting this approach to the test. Until then, happy shooting!

Friday, August 7, 2009

It's a Whole New Ballgame!

This year the Columbus Clippers moved into their new home at Huntington park. It's a beautiful new stadium with the Columbus skyline in the backdrop. Our family attended last nights game vs the Buffalo Bison. Great game, beautiful night and great company.

Just as the Clippers have found a new venue, it's now time for me to do the same. Starting today you can now find me on FaceBook. There I hope to get closer to all of you.

Now that the summer events are over, it's time to get down to some photography. Regularly I get the question, "how'd you shoot that?". So now it's time to answer your questions. Keep an eye on my blog to get some good (and easy) hints on how to take better pictures. By the way, if you have a photography question that you'd like for me to discuss, shoot me a note. Anything fair game.

See you next time!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Dublin Irish Fest 2009

The Dublin Irish Festival is the last BIG party of the summer in Central Ohio, and is one of our favorite events of the year. For me, this years party started with a mission as I was determined to get my kilt. So soon after the gates opened on Friday, my first stop was the Utilikilt booth where I was fitted for the kilt called the Survivor. As fortune would have it, they had my size, so one kilt one belt and one tee shirt later and I was ready to party!

Each year before we head to the Irish Fest, we alway begin with a pre-party at our house. Here my buddy Bil and I show off our kilts as we sip a Guiness or two.
New to our party this year were Christy and Eric (left) and Lysandra and Bill (right). Of course there were plenty of regulars like Myron, Mark, Judy, Dave, Lynn and Evonne.

Missing this year from the party was Wendy and Chris who recently moved to Phoenix. The pre-party was certainly more tame with out Chris, the life of any party, around, but we still had a great time and even toasted Wendy and Chris with a"car bomb" in their honor. Cheers!

It was another year of record attendance at the Irish Fest although early morning rains on Friday made the grounds a bit soggy, however, as always, Dublin did a great job maintaining the festival area so although soggy, the paths were never muddy.

As with most ethnic festivals, the Irish Fest has pleanty of fun things to do and great food to eat. First up we stopped by the Green Field Sports Area where we saw some strength competitions. Men hurling stones like an old time shotputs; pitching hay bales high into the air and many more impressive displays of strength.

Next it was off to the Celtic Dance stage where we watch the Dancers step to the Irish vibe. If the dance wasn't interesting enough, the costumes really caught our eye with bright colors and perfectly made-up hairdoos. I found it facinating to see so many people of all ages totally committed to such a wonderful folk art form. Of course, being the father of multiple sons who have played travel sports and feeling the sting of the costs of their equipment, I couldn't help but feel for the parents of the young girls who where these elaborate costumes. I can only imagine the sacrifice that these parents make to keep their daughters "in style".
While enjoying the dance I noticed this young aspiring dancer intently watching the colorful display. Her piercing eyes focused on every move the dancers made. I wonder how long before she ready to hit the floor? Only time will tell.

We watched the dancers for quite a while, until it was time to move on. Just ahead I was mesmerized by the maticulous craftsmanship of the stone carver. Of course other crafts were well representented too, including woodworking, leathercrafting (I think their's a better name for that), instrument making and glasswork just to name a few.
Sifting through the rows of crafts and food vendors our next destination was clear. It was time to hit one of our favorite venues; not because of the music and certainly not because of any cultural or artistic significance. No the reason we love this venue really has nothing to do with Irish tradition, for us, but more because The Dogs Are So Darn Cute!!! Yes, these dogs are of Irish heritage but to my wife and I that doesn't matter because we are just dog lovers no matter what their heritage. This year there was a nice assortment of dogs. There were the Kerri Blue, Irish Terrier, Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier and Irish Setter. However, the two dogs that we really come here to see are the Soft Coated Wheaton Terrier and the Irish Wolfhound.
Our family is partial to the Soft Coated Wheaton as we are also Wheaton owners. For those of you who are not familiar with Wheatons, they are an extremely smart, yet stubborn dog with a strong natural herding instinct. They are known for their excited circles around the living room, up and down off the furniture, when someone comes to visit. Our Wheaton, Teagan (means beautiful in Irish) will sit nicely to greet our guests, stub a wagging faster and faster; then as if she can no longer hold her pent-up energy she leaps at our guests to give a firm push with her front paws. Then its off to the races around the house. I always describer her as the most well trained dog, when she wants to be.
The Irish Wolfhound we love because of its sheer size. A massive yet elegant animal that is as gentile as can be.
As we leave the dog venue, it's time to listen to some music. Of course the big bands were there like The Produgals, Synthian, Gaelic Storm and more; but over the years we have become unofficial groupies of Ric Smith, formerly with Heartland. This year he has changed bands and now performs with Roger Drawdry and the Firestarters and excellent local band. Ric plays the fiddle, which is the glue to any good Irish folk band. They are currently performing at Byrne's Pub in Grandview. We plan on making an upcoming show soon.
Another must-see group that we added to our list this year is Ladies of Longford. We really enjoyed there energetic style and mix of contemporary american music with an Irish flare. Of particular note, the fiddler can fiddle with the best of them, while mom, on lead guitar can strum a powerful melody. Perhaps my favorite musician was the drummer who has a voice similar to Natalie Maines, lead singer for the Dixie Chicks. This is another group local to Central Ohio and definitely a must see.
The Dublin Irish Festival is a three day event that, for me, is just a nice place to hang out. But by the end of three days of food, music, crafts, fun and of course beer, it was time to close the fest for another year. Although there was no beer involved for this little one, it looks like he partied hard and is now dreaming of next year Fest...

Did you go to the Dublin Irish Festival this year? Got Wheaton? Perhaps you just like Irish music. Tell me your favorite party stories.

See you next time!