Monday, October 11, 2004

Assignment 1 - About Myself

I started my photography class last week, and our first assignment (due tomorrow) is to take a few photos that tell something about myself, but to take them in a way that is different than we would have taken them before.

My first photo is a shot of my pool table. It's something my wife and I like to play, though I should probably be better considering I own a table. What is different about this shot is that I'm used to photographing things as I find them...animals, architecture, landscapes, etc. Setting up a staged shot is not something I've done before (other than maybe putting a flower in a vase). I tried doing an action shot, with balls rolling around with motion blur. However I quickly discovered I could not get the shot I wanted to create due to technical limitations (I don't have a flash that supports 2nd curtain synch). So instead I created more of a still-life type of shot. It took a lot of work to get it the way I envisioned it. After fussing with the arrangement of items for quite a bit, my bigger concern became the lighting. My basement isn't exactly the ideal lighting studio. I tried with the regular basement lights on or the pool tables lights on, but I realized the glare was very distracting. Next I set up a photography lighting rack (old equipment...I think it belonged to my grandpa). That gave me an illumination that I really liked much better, but even worse glare. Next I used some black posterboard to construct a shade that I placed between the scene and the lights. That got rid of the glare problem, but then I could very visibly see the light reflecting off of the ceiling rafters. To solve that, I began stapling white blankets to the ceiling in various ways (across the ceiling, hanging down like a curtain, etc). Eventually I found something I liked, and there was just one thing more to decide: aperture. After extensive debate over how sharp or blurred to make the background, I finally settled on my final shot. Click on the image for a larger version of it:

For my second photo, I went to take a new perspective on my passion: lighthouses. I've shot lighthouses in just about every manner conceivable. I've shot from high and low, near and far, down the pier, across the water, from a boat, straight up the tower, straight down from the top, from the light room, and even through the windows and portholes. However, in thinking over things, the one thing I realized I haven't done is put my lighthouses in any context. So I decided to show the lighthouse with the boats they are meant to guide, and thus I took another trip back to Lake Michigan on Sunday. I started at Muskegon and worked my way down to St. Joseph. I shot many boats passing by several different lighthouses (five, to be precise). I saw ships as big as a passenger ferry that runs clear across to Wisconsin. However, the best shot I found was this mini sailboat (if you even want to call it a boat) with a colorful sail drifting past the Holland Lighthouse. I thought the colorful sail made it a nice shot, but I also think it's size gives some type of context for the purpose of the lights. In modern times, large boats are guided by sonar and GPS navigation. The idea of a lighthouse is pretty much unnecessary for those boats these days. In this age, I thought that a lighthouse might be most useful as a guiding light for tiny boats like this one...ones that aren't loaded up with modern navigation equipment. Once again, click the image for a larger version:

For my growing collection, I also got several other photos of this and 4 other lighthouses. It was a nice weekend, without a cloud in the sky (except maybe a few way off on the horizon to the north). Actually, the truth is, it was probably too nice. Without a cloud in the sky and the sun drifting further to the South these days, it made for a bit of a challenging day shooting these lighthouse, many of which contain white sections (which reflect like crazy and overexpose the shots)...not to mention the reflections off the water. Not a bad day, but definitely not my best photo trip.

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