I knew when I saw these “candles” (made by Energizer) at Target that I had to have them and that they could provide an interesting photo opportunity. Frankly, this shot isn’t what I had envisioned when I was walking out of the store. But it’s what I ended up with in an impromptu photo session last night.
So what are we to make of this tableau? It could be that, to paraphrase Macbeth, it “[signifies] nothing.” And it’s no accident that I mention Macbeth, since in the speech where that phrase is borrowed, he also talks about a candle. Though his candle is “brief”; these Energizer candles are supposed to last 90 hours.
Maybe its about loneliness, alienation and the meaninglessness of life. Yes, Macbeth talks about that too. (“[Life] is a tale told by an idiot signifying nothing.”)
And maybe I’m asking you to think too much. (At the end of the play, Macbeth probably thought too much; he should have put more thought in to his scheme to become king at the beginning of the play.)
Maybe this photo tells the story of a photographer who should have been doing something more serious than playing with Energizer candles and his prized Canon 50mm f/1.2 lens.
Here’s a photo that was taken with my Canon film camera 12 years ago. Yes, film! If you look closely, you will see white specks. Those are dust specks on the negative. And if you look closely again, you will see film grain. Holy cow!
My workflow for this photo was as follows
Visit the Como Park Conservatory in Minnesota
Take the photo
Develop the film in my makeshift darkroom
Scan the negative with my very slow high resolution film and slide scanner
Put the scanned file in a folder on my Mac
Burn the folder to a CD (yes, a CD)
Put the CD into a CD case
Put the CD case in my very crowded closet
Forget about the CD case for 12 years
Look for a shirt that fell off the hanger in my closet
Find the CD case
Forget about the shirt and everything else
Post the photo after minor retouching in Aperture
There you go. And, if you ask me, I like the photo but it’s not all that special. As if no one else ever stood here and took the exact picture. . . .
This photo is the result of a totally serendipitous process. I have been playing with a Canon Speedlight and a Canon infrared trigger (the ST-E2) off and on for the last few days. I have also been using a snoot to focus the light on macro subjects. I started with the Christmas cactus I photographed in natural light a few days ago. I then moved to a freshly printed dollar, thinking that bright, focused, angular light might result in something cool. (It didn’t). And then, just a short time ago, I went prowling for something with shape and texture and I found a Shure microphone I just happened to have lying on my den floor. (Why? You ask. There’s no good answer for that question other than there are a lot of things on my den floor.)
And this is the result. I like the picture but, as I’ve often said, that doesn’t mean it’s a good picture. What I like, though, is that I think I’ve made a fairly usual thing look interesting because of the the point of view and, more importantly, the way I’ve used light. The other thing I like is that I used a iPad mini box as a reflector on the right side of the subject. Beyond that, my “studio” is nothing special in this photo. In fact, here’s what the shot set-up looks like:
There really was as much ambient light in the room as you see in the snap shot. The reason everything besides the microphone is so dark in the final photo is that the Speedlight was bright, it was very close to the the microphone and the light was focused by the snoot.
Canon 5DIII 1/60s f/9.0 ISO200 100mm
Wow! Yet another “How To Be A Better Photographer” blog??!!! Yes. The story is that a year ago, after assigning a blog project to my Social Media Marketing students, I decided to create a blog that does something different than this one: I use explicit teaching tactics rather than the subliminal ones I use here. (You didn’t know that I was often secretly trying to educate you?)
And so (a year later!) I have launched “The Better Photography” blog. My mission is to teach and enlighten and, from time to time, to talk in more technical detail about how I create the photos that show up here. So how about visiting my new blog? And you really should subscribe to it because it won’t be quite as regular and this one. What? You haven’t subscribed to this one yet? Just go to the bottom on this page and put your email address in the blank provided. No obligations. And you can cancel at any time.
This photo is the last photo I took in 2012. I was entralled by the fact that the bag of chips got puffy as our airplane reached altitude. It was taken with my iPhone and given what I was trying to capture, it is a failure. It was also the 18,791st photo I took last year.
I am posting a throw-away photo today so I can talk about two things that are running through my head:
First, this photo is obvious proof that every shutter click doesn’t generally produce a gem. My rough calculation is that I might get something that is close to as good as it gets for me about once every 1000 times I take a photo. That’s a ratio that isn’t very good and which is no doubt one of the evils of the digital era of photography. I have been reading about Edward Weston and he was much more deliberate and calculating in his photography. I need to be more like him.
Second, I accept Malcolm Gladwell’s thesis in his book Outliers that what we call “genius” is often a combination of the right genes and the right environment. But you also need to add in 10,000 hours of concerted and guided practice. By my calculations, not including all of the time I spent teaching photography last year, I put about 800 hours into my craft in 2012 (including the production of this blog). Eight hundred hours equals twenty 40 hours work weeks.
The reality is that by Gladwell’s suggestion, I have several years to go before I have a chance of being a genius. Or at least really, really, really good. Do I have the will? Will I find the right teachers? And will I ever feel like I’ve reached some kind of peak or pinnacle?
The answers to the first two questions are “Yes” and “I hope so.” The answer to the last is “Probably not.” I quoted the poet Robert Browning yesterday in my first year photography class: “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp. Or what’s a Heaven for?”
But at least we strive. . . .
As far as photographic experiments go, I would say that this photo represents a successful failure. I spent time yesterday learning about the quality of bokeh produced by various lenses at various degrees of focus. In the midst of this, I had the idea of putting a full glass of water in front of our Christmas tree. I imagined that the round bokeh would show up in the water glass, given the lens effect that water can have. But I imagined wrong. Oh, well. . .
What I like about this photo is that everything is soft and round – except the way the light shows up in the water glass. Here, it is sharp and linear. Too abstract? Boring? Maybe. I suspect I will revisit this idea to see if I can end up with something better.
I like the fact that lowly shepherds play a role in the Christmas story. So when Deb was shopping for Christmas decorations, I couldn’t resist buying two figures from a Nativity collection. I would have bought more sheep but they were $1.98 apiece and I didn’t want to invest too much into what I knew would result in one photo.
Incidentally, I have assigned a bokeh photo to my students and so I offer one here. And since I’ve done a holiday bokeh thing two years in a row (2010) (2011), I guess I’ve established an annual tradition by offering one now. . . .
If I were an M&M, I’d be brown. I am an introvert who would rather blend in. And, in most observable ways, I am a conformist. And, when I am immersed in my photography, I disappear. . . .
Check out the Shutterbug article featuring my blog.
I would call this an editorial photo. Instead of creating something that is artistic and packed with emotion, I wanted to take a photo that would help reinforce the technical aspect of how cameras and photo editing software see color, which is referred to as RGB, or red, green, blue.
This was initially going to be a full color photo with all of the RGB M&Ms clustered in the front. But my colleague Dennis (click to visit his blog) suggested that I use selective coloring in Aperture instead. And voila! Here you have it.
Check out the Shutterbug article featuring my blog.
And did you know that you can subscribe to my blog by filling in the email form at the bottom of the page? Yes, you can!
There are a few things that are unusual about this post. First, it comes from the same file as a previous post. I rarely do that. Second, it is cropped unconventionally. What possessed me to eschew the 2:3 or 4:5 ratio? No one knows. Finally, it is heavily filtered. And I teach my students that we filter photo when the photo is substandard to begin with: we plaster over the flaws, so to speak. Thus, I discourage filtering. But I guess I don’t always practice what a preach.